The Conservative Party’s latest attack on the sick and disabled will undermine the people who help them with their daily needs – their carers.
At last count, 826,000 carers provided at least 35 hours of care every week to someone who receives a qualifying disability benefit. Currently they receive £66.15 per week for this service – just £1.89 per hour.
The current minimum wage (or the National Living Wage if you want to use the Tories’ lie) is £8.21 per hour, so carers are clearly being paid well below the minimum wage.
But the average pay for a care worker in the UK is around £12 per hour, or £21,000 per year.
From this we can deduce that, if the government had to employ care workers to do the same work as people on Carers Allowance, the drain on the national purse would be an extra £17,550 per year.
That’s £14,496,300,000 per year!
And the Tory-run DWP is complaining about £150 million – a paltry one ninety-sixth of that staggering total.
That is the amount the hated government department for welfare persecution intends to take back from people it claims have received too much Carers Allowance at any time over the last 10 years.
Only 80,000 carers will be affected, but some will be hit with a bill of more than £20,000 – which will take 34 years to pay off at the current repayment rate.
These carers would not only be paying for their own error in failing to notify the DWP of changes in their earnings at an appropriate time, but also for the DWP’s failure to detect those changes by its own means.
The DWP classifies 89% of the value of overpayments as claimant error or fraud, which will need to be repaid. But fraud accounts for 0.6 per cent of this total.
This means 99.4 per cent of affected carers may be penalised for mistakes by the DWP.
The plan to claw back the overpayments was revealed in a report by the National Audit Office, which warned that the DWP had – as is typical of that department – neglected to consider the impact the imposition of repayments will have on some of the most vulnerable families in the UK.
Frank Field, chair of the Commons Work and Pensions committee, summed it all up:
“Once again, the NAO has devastatingly laid bare the incompetence at DWP, and its stark human cost.
“Not for the first time, we see DWP squeezing those least able to afford it. It will chase down carers who provide such an immense service to our society, potentially cutting their income for decades – when it knows that a large part of the responsibility lies squarely at its own door.
“Worse still, the NAO shows that DWP hasn’t bothered to find out what clawing back these sums will cost carers and the people they care for, in every sense.
“There was already plenty wrong with the way we recognise carers’ invaluable contribution. Rather than making things worse, why doesn’t the Department just spare us all: end this massive scandal, focus on the real fraudsters and write off the overpayments it has allowed to build up unchecked?”
I’ll tell you the reason.
It’s because the Conservatives – through the DWP – want to hurt these most vulnerable members of our society.
Indeed, they hope that sanctioning thousands of pounds from carers – and in effect from the disabled people they support, as many will be caring for family members or loved ones – will make it impossible for them to cope.
They want to push these people into the kind of despair that causes mental imbalance and drives people towards death – either due to physical illnesses caused by the lack of money (consider the case of Stephen Smith) or by suicide (there are too many example of this to count).
Death by benefit deprivation has been the Conservatives’ plan for many years and this is simply the latest stage of that plan.
EXTRA: A commenter on the Vox Political Facebook page has pointed out that I could be neglecting to mention billions of pounds more that the government is saving, by not having to pay for sick and disabled people to live in care homes.
This person wrote: “When you say that the ‘official’ care workers are usually paid £12 per hour, or £21,000 per year, you don’t take into account the fact that many of the carers on £66.15 per week are caring for people who would otherwise be in a care home.
“If the disabled person was in a care home then this would cost the taxpayer considerably more, in some cases over £1,000 per week.”
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