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The Government has finally abandoned controversial plans to impose benefit caps on full time carers for adult relatives, just two months after a court found the policy to discriminate against disabled people. Lord Freud, the welfare reform minister told his peers during a debate on welfare this week that people who spend more than 35 hours a week caring for someone will be exempt from the benefits cap. Many charities have welcomed the turnaround as a victory for carers’ rights.
Carer’s Allowance Exemption
The Chief Executive of Carers UK said that by changing the law to make carers who receive carer’s allowance exempt from the cap, the Government has shown that they recognise the ‘valuable contribution’ that carers make to wider society. She added that the welfare cap unfairly punishes carers who are already facing financial problems as a result of their role.
Mr Freud made the announcement about carer’s allowance after a Labour MP put forward a welfare reform bill, which sought to exempt carers who look after adult relatives from the cap. A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions said that they were exempting carers ‘in recognition of the hugely important contribution carers make to society’.
Government lawyers had previously defended the policy by arguing that carers who are unpaid should be treated in the same way as unemployed people, by having to make the same choices as unemployed people about working and living costs. Critics said that describing carers as ‘workless’ was offensive as caring for someone severely disabled was difficult and could be regarded as work. An estimated 1,400 people are currently affected by the cap, though this would have risen once the criteria for the cap was lowered in April.
The Shadow Employment Minister said that he was ‘delighted’ the Government had succumbed to pressure by deciding to exempt carers from the benefit cap. He added that it was ‘depressing’ that the Conservatives took so long to reach the decision. Figures uncovered by the Labour party showed that last year, the Government spent over £53,000 in fees for one failed legal case to apply the benefit cap to a carer’s family.
Carers who look after children under 18 and disabled partners are already exempt from the benefits cap. It does affect people who care for adult disabled children, parents or siblings. The Labour minister who put forward the bill regarding welfare reform withdrew her amendment once Freud promised to bring it forward at the bill’s third reading in the House of Lords. Carers UK has estimated that it could take six months for the exemptions for certain types of carers to take place.
The benefit cap was previously introduced to limit people of working age to benefits of £500 a week. It was brought in on the basis that it sent a message to unemployed families that they must put more effort into trying to find a job.
If you wish to find out more about eligibility for Carers Allowance, you should call the Carers Allowance contact number to see if you are eligible to receive it.