The Government’s recent announcement that it will change the law to exempt all carers who receive Carer’s Allowance from the benefit cap is fantastic news for carers throughout the country.
Previously, carers’ benefit cap levels were set at £500 per week for couples, £500 per week for families or lone parents with children and £350 for single people without children.
The Minister of State for the Department for Work and Pensions, Lord Freud’s announcement on 25 January, followed a landmark ruling in the High Court in November 2015 in which Justice Collins ruled that the Government was unlawfully discriminating against disabled people and their carers.
The announcement has been widely welcomed by carers and carers’ support groups, such as Carers UK, which has campaigned for changes to the benefit cap rules since the policy was first announced in 2010.
They have long argued that the benefit cap is unfair to carers, cutting their income and potentially putting them in severe financial difficulties. This seems particularly unfair when those who look after sick, disabled, mentally impaired or older loved ones save the state some £132 billion[i] every year.
Helena Herklots, the Chief Executive of Carers UK, said: “This is a significant victory for carers and carers’ rights. By changing the law to exempt carers who receive Carers’ Allowance from the benefit cap, the Government has shown that it recognises both the valuable contribution that carers make to society and that the benefit cap unfairly penalises carers – many of whom are already facing significant financial hardship as a result of their caring role.”
This development is particularly welcome given that the Government is shortly planning to lower the benefit cap, which would have seen even greater numbers of carers impacted by the policy and placed under yet more financial pressure.
If the law hadn’t been changed, there was a very real danger that carers would be forced to give up their caring role, leaving their sick, disabled or frail loved ones to be looked after by someone who isn’t their ‘trusted carer’ causing unnecessary upset and distress. For many carers and those they look after, benefits are quite literally, a lifeline. The benefit cap exemption is a very positive step, which recognises the critical role carers play in society.
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[i] Carers UK