Mum feels ‘penalised’ by DWP working rule for carers

In the UK, people who provide unpaid care for someone else can ask to receive a benefit called Carer’s Allowance to financially support them whilst they undertake this care. This benefit currently pays £69.70 a week which gives a carer around £279 each month and just over £3,000 a year. However, Carer’s Allowance has very strict criteria and people can only claim if they provide 35 hours of caring work a week, and do not earn over £132 after tax, National Insurance and expenses. The Autumn Budget announced this level was going to increase by £7 to £139.

This particular rule has caused many unpaid carers to be hit even harder by the current cost of living crisis as they risk losing their carer’s benefit if they get another job to try and top up their monthly income.

Yasmin Hersi, 34, from Southampton has previously faced the repercussions of earning over the limit and believes the increase announced in the Autumn Budget is simply “not enough”.

Yasmin has four children, two of which have Autism and need full-time care when they are not in school.

Previously Yasmin had a job working 16 hours a week for the Autism In Schools programme however, she ended up earning over the limit which caused her to lose her carer’s payment.

She told “When you have children and you’re a carer then you’re quite isolated from society because there’s always an overwhelming amount of things to do and committing to anything that is not caring is hard, so social gatherings and stuff like that is really not an option for you.

“So I wanted to work, I needed to keep my mind ticking and I like to feel active and do something I enjoy daily and it’s good to like feel you’re adding value to the wider society.”

“So I wanted to work, I needed to keep my mind ticking and I like to feel active and do something I enjoy daily and it’s good to like feel you’re adding value to the wider society.”

Yasmin explained that losing her payment forced her to leave her job as it was actually “better” for her to not work during that time even though her finances were stressed due to this.

“It’s because we’re stuck between a rock and a hard place because you know you have to provide care for your child and you want to do it but we’re not getting enough to live on and support our children.

“I was dealt these cards in life and I am trying to manage the best I can and because I can’t leave this life, I wouldn’t even if I had the option, I just think some more consideration and some more support should be given to us carers.”

Yasmin stressed how she was still only young and had many years of work ahead of her and she would be “very happy” to do so if the Government allowed her to.

She said: “Working doesn’t only bring money in, it brings a lot of other benefits to your life and I would ideally like to work 20 to 24 hours a week, just during the day Monday to Friday so I can meet all my other needs.

“For me, this would help me do my caring responsibilities even better because I’ve been social with other people and had time which is just mine where I can be me and not just a carer, I don’t have to think about doctors appointments and stuff.”

Yasmin says having the time to “switch off” and “recharge” is vital for all carers and everyone has different ways of doing it and for her, it is being allowed to work.

Contact, the charity which supports families with disabled children, has called on the Government to lift the limit for several years.

The charity said it was also “hugely disappointed” about the increase to the working allowance announced in the Autumn Budget.

The charity also said the rules acted as a “disincentive to work” and “keeps carers out of the job market when there is a critical shortage of workers”.

Una Summerson, head of campaigns at Contact, said: “This ridiculously low limit will force even more parent carers to reduce their work hours or give up their jobs so they don’t lose their Carer’s Allowance.

“Parents tell us they want to work more while still providing the 35 hours of care needed to qualify for Carer’s Allowance. Many do a lot more, our research found that a quarter of parents do an unimaginable 100 hours of care each week.

“Together with parent carers and other disability and carers charities we had been calling for the Carer’s Allowance earnings limit to be raised to £200 a week, to allow more carers to work and use their skills and experience.

“Despite the latest setback, we will continue to make the case for it to be substantially raised at the next available opportunity.”

A DWP spokesperson said: “We recognise the valuable role of unpaid carers and remain committed to helping them financially, along with their health, well-being and employment chances.

“Universal Credit includes a carer’s element worth more than £160 a month and since 2010 we have increased Carer’s Allowance, putting an additional £700 a year in carers’ pockets. Those in receipt of Carer’s Allowance may be entitled to other support, including benefits.

“The earnings limit in Carer’s Allowance, which has increased by nearly a third since 2010, permits carers to undertake some part-time work, if they are able to do so, recognising the benefits of staying in touch with the workplace. The limit is not linked to one specific factor and is kept under review by the Government.”

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