Thank you for contacting me about support for unpaid carers.
I recognise the valuable and vital contribution made by carers of call kinds, many of whom spend a significant proportion of their life providing support to family members, friends and neighbours, and I believe that carers must receive the right support to help them carry out their caring roles. A tenth of adults in the UK provide unpaid care for a friend or family member, and these people should be supported in the invaluable work they do.
The Government is committed to supporting the 5.4 million unpaid carers in this country. Funding was extended to Carers UK’s support phone line until March 2021 to cover the winter period, and the Department for Health and Social Care is providing free flu vaccines for unpaid carers. In addition, the Department for Education has launched the ‘See, Hear, Respond’ service in partnership with Barnardo’s to support young carers through this challenging time. I am assured that cross-departmental work is ongoing to scope further support options for young carers.
The primary purpose of Carer's Allowance is to provide a measure of financial support for people who give up the opportunity of full-time employment in order to care for a severely disabled person. It must be stressed that it is not a carer’s wage or a payment for the services of caring, nor is it intended to replace lost or forgone earnings in their entirety.
The Carer's Allowance earnings limit is not linked to the number of hours worked. Instead, it is set at a level that aims to encourage people to maintain a link with the labour market through part time work. The earnings limit for Carer's Allowance is a net figure, meaning it takes into account income tax, National Insurance contributions and half of any contributions to an occupational or personal pension, and there are also a number of other deductions which can be made. That means that people can earn significantly more than £128 per week gross and still be eligible for Carer's Allowance.
In the past decade, the rate of Carer’s Allowance has increased from £53.90 to £67.25 a week, meaning nearly an additional £700 a year for hundreds of thousands of carers.
I would encourage carers to check their eligibility for additional support, such as Universal Credit. Universal Credit can include an additional amount for carers who provide care of 35 hours or more each week for a severely disabled person. For carers who satisfy the qualifying criteria, an additional amount of £162.92 per month is included in their Universal Credit entitlement. They may also benefit from the extra £1040 that has been added to the standard allowance in Universal Credit this financial year.
Ministers have committed to regularly updating and bolstering the online guidance for unpaid carers. Please be assured that I have taken note of your concerns and suggestions, and will continue to monitor progress in this area very carefully indeed.
Thank you again for writing to me.
With best wishes.
Jonathan Lord MP
Member of Parliament for Woking