Here's why Carer's Allowance repayment demands are unfair

Here’s why Carer’s Allowance repayment demands are unfair

The government is demanding that £250 million in “overpaid” Carer’s Allowance is repaid by the recipients – but here’s why Carer’s Allowance repayment demands are unfair.

Carers who are also employees are being forced to repay the benefit, in full, that was paid in weeks when their employment earnings exceeded the limit imposed on it – currently £151 per week.

But that is imposing on them limitations that other earners do not have to face.

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For example: when filling out their tax forms, people who are self-employed only have to declare the amount they earned during an entire tax year – not the amounts they earned during every week that year. And the government does not try to tax them for weeks when they earned enough that – if extrapolated to provide an indicative figure for the year if such earnings were made every week – the amount they earned was taxable.

Some carers have said they were not aware that they had exceeded earnings limits because they thought weeks when they earned much less than the threshold would compensate for those when they exceeded it; the amounts would be amortised over the course of a month, if they were paid on that basis – or a year, if they were declaring their earnings in that way.

As a carer myself, This Writer believes that withdrawing Carer’s Allowance for particular weeks when a carer receives more employment money than the earnings limit, without making allowances for weeks when that person earns less, is unfair.

The effect is to put these people at a financial disadvantage in losing CA for the weeks when they earn more than £151 and in having to pay it back afterwards.

It seems to me that the benefit has been designed to find fault in its recipients, because it does not accommodate the different ways in which people in employment are paid. The system for Housing Benefit penalises people in the same way.

A report from 2019 that the government has only just – reluctantly – released shows that the Department for Work and Pensions has long been aware that the benefit was designed to leave carers poorer – but nobody cares.

The DWP’s stock response when challenged over this is to say that only a small number of carers are affected by crippling overpayment recovery regimes, and that CA has been raised by more than £1,500 since 2010.

But it is still the worst-paying state benefit – does that increase even cover inflation? – and even one person being affected by an unfair system is one too many.

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