Closed petition Pay Carers an allowance equivalent to a fulltime job at the National Living wage

Paying unpaid carers would safeguard those requiring care making it a financially viable option for friends and family to look after those they love, Reducing pressure on 999 services and the NHS. Saving vast amounts of money per person. The carer who provides continuity in care is often forgotten

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Primary carers currently receive £1.85 an hour which is £64.60 a week, £3359 a year. There are over 6,000,000 carers in the UK and 1.25 Million people provide unpaid care for more than 50 hours per week (NHS survey of carers 2009/2010; Census 2001, Office for National Statistics) Carers for people with dementia alone save the UK over £8 Billion per annum. 72% of carers are worse off financially as a result of becoming a carer and struggle to make ends meet (Carers UK 2008)
This is a national disgrace!

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Government responded

This response was given on 16 May 2019

Carer’s Allowance is not a wage, but it does provide some recognition of the valuable care being provided to support disabled loved ones live more independently. 2022/23 forecast real spend is £3.5bn.

Read the response in full

The Government fully recognises the invaluable contribution that unpaid and family carers make in providing significant care and continuity of support to their loved ones and appreciate that this informal care can lead to considerable savings in Social Care costs. That is why in June 2018, the Department of Health and Social Care published a Carers Action Plan ‘Supporting carers today’, which set out a two-year programme of targeted work to support unpaid carers. It focused on practical actions that we intend to take over the next two years to support carers, working across and beyond government.

Formal carers, i.e. those employed as “professional” carers, do of course need to receive all the protections that employment law offers, including receiving at least the National Living Wage/National Minimum Wage from their employers. However, it is important to understand that paying a wage to an informal carer would change their status and it has never been the role of the benefit system to pay people for the tasks they undertake in the way that an employer would. This has been the approach of successive Governments and reflects wider social policy aims as well as issues of affordability.

Financial support for carers through the benefit system includes Carer’s Allowance (introduced in 1976) and means tested benefits for those on lower incomes. Means tested benefits include Universal Credit and Pension Credit. These benefits can be paid to carers at a higher rate than those without caring responsibilities through the carer premium currently worth up to £36.85 a week. Universal Credit includes an additional amount of benefit (£160.20 per monthly assessment period) payable to support carers who provide 35 hours or more of care each week for a severely disabled person. These amounts recognise the additional contribution and responsibilities associated with caring and mean that lower-income carers can receive more money than others who receive these benefits. Most carers of working age wish to stay in touch with the jobs market, not just for their financial well-being, but also to enhance their own lives and the lives of those for whom they care. Universal Credit will provide support for carers and improve their opportunities to maintain their links with work.

A carer may apply for Carer’s Allowance which is paid at the rate of £66.15 a week if they provide care for 35 hours or more a week to a person on a qualifying disability benefit. The carer must be aged 16 years or over and not in full time education (defined as 21 hours or more a week). For those carers who can undertake some part-time work, there is an earnings limit. Carer’s Allowance can be received alongside part-time earnings of up to £123 net of certain expenses a week. Allowable expenses include income tax, National Insurance contributions and half of any contributions to an occupational or personal pension. Also, up to half the net earnings figure calculated can be allowed towards the cost of alternative care for the disabled person, or for a child aged under 16, while the carer is at work. These rules mean people can earn significantly more than the earnings limit and still get Carer’s Allowance. Where possible, informal carers are encouraged to continue either working or studying part-time alongside their caring responsibilities in order to improve their own life chances and increase their social interaction.

While Carer’s Allowance ceases when the claimant earns more than £123 a week, there is no similar cliff-edge effect in Universal Credit. In Universal Credit, carers who combine caring with paid work continue to receive the additional amount for caring as part of their overall award for as long as they provide care for at least 35 hours per week for a severely disabled person.

However, the support carers need extends far beyond financial help and can’t just come from Government. We also need businesses, local communities, the voluntary sector and individuals to play their part.

We know that many carers experience difficulties in trying to balance work with their caring responsibilities, and recognise the financial hardship some carers face as a result of having to give up work. We want to support carers to enable them to continue to work alongside their caring role and through the Carers Action Plan have committed to seeking to raise the profile of carers with employers and to encourage them to improve their working practices. We are also considering the question of dedicated employment rights for carers.

The Government’s Fuller Working Lives Strategy sets out what the Government is doing to support carers who wish to remain in or return to work; as well as highlighting the sort of support that good employers should give carers in their workforce, such as flexible working.

We recognise there is still more to do. That is why the needs of carers will be central to the forthcoming Social Care Green Paper and a vital measure of its success.

Department for Work and Pensions.