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Work and Pensions Secretary told to urgently increase the financial support paid to unpaid carers

02 July 2020

Carers UK and ninety two other charities, including DR UK, have today written a joint letter to Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey calling for the urgent extra financial support to unpaid carers to ensure “they are supported during the coronavirus crisis and beyond”.

A copy of the letter has been sent to the Chancellor.

More than 6.5 million people in the UK provide unpaid care to disabled, and older people in our society. The support they provide is worth £132 billion a year is - equivalent to the annual cost of the NHS.

Carers UK says that:

“Despite the huge contribution they make, too many carers and their families face financial  hardship. Taking on a caring role can result in sharp reductions in income for families, due to the extra costs associated with caring; these pressures are further exacerbated when people feel they have no choice to leave work to provide care unpaid.

The result is at least 1.2 million carers (22%) are now living in poverty across the UK, whilst, on average, 600 carers a day are having to leave work, in order to provide unpaid care.

The coronavirus crisis is only compounding this situation. Carers are now, on average, providing 10 additional hours of care since the outbreak began; they are overwhelmed, close to burn-out and urgently in need of more support. 81% of carers are spending more during the coronavirus outbreak – the rising costs they face include increased domestic bills, paying for additional care and support services, buying equipment to adapt homes, and/or purchasing technology to help with caring.

Carer’s Allowance, the main benefit for people caring unpaid for family or friends, remains  the lowest benefit of its kind at £67.25 per week. Because of the low level of the payment and other entitlement conditions, including an earnings limit, the benefit continues to be ineffective in preventing financial hardship.”

To alleviate the financial hardship that many unpaid carers face, we are calling for:

  •  an additional supplement to match the £20 per week increases in Universal Credit that have rightly recognised the challenges people on lower incomes have during the pandemic of additional costs;
  • an  accompanying rises to Carer Premium and Carer Addition and for this payment to be made to carers with an underlying entitlement to Carer’s Allowance, so older carers on low incomes can also benefit;
  • for the earnings limit for claiming Carer’s Allowance to be raised to the National Living Wage (£139.42 per week), to ensure those juggling work and care on low pay also receive support.

The joint letter to the Work and Pensions Secretary concludes:

“This is an opportunity for the Government to recognise the vital role that unpaid carers play, and to put in place much needed financial support for carers who remain essential in supporting the health and care systems we all depend on. It is time we made Carer’s Allowance Fairer for Carers.”

Read the full letter to the Work and Pensions Secretary.

See also DR UK writes to Minister for Disabled People to press for £20 week increase to ESA available from disabilityrightsuk.org