Supporting Carers to Care

The majority of carers who receive benefits from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) are satisfied with the support they receive, worth up to £2 billion a year. The Department is delivering carers’ benefits effectively and has made improvements in processing claims in the last few years. But at least a fifth have difficulties in applying for Carer’s Allowance, a National Audit Office report has found.

Some carers are confused by the way Carer’s Allowance interacts with other benefits, including Pension Credit and Income Support. For example, carers who do not qualify for the full Carer’s Allowance still have to apply for it in order to get additional payments available on other benefits such as Income Support or Jobseeker’s Allowance.

The Department does not know the take-up rate of Carer’s Allowance. Not all eligible carers apply for the support they are entitled to because they are not aware of the Allowance; they do not think they are eligible; they do not think of themselves as carers; or they choose not to apply because of the possible effect on the benefits of the person that they care for.

A quarter of those receiving Carer’s Allowance, whom the NAO surveyed, wanted paid work alongside their caring responsibilities. Most carers were satisfied with general work-related advice they received from Jobcentre Plus. But over 70 per cent of those who had contacted Jobcentre Plus for employment support in the last year found that its services were not well suited to their personal circumstance as carers, for example, the need for work with restricted hours or flexible working patterns.

Only a fifth of Jobcentre Plus staff thought they had all the skills and knowledge they needed to support carers who want to do paid work. Advisers are incentivised to help customers get back into full-time work, but not part-time work, and there is no particular impetus for Jobcentre Plus to help carers get into work of this type. Jobcentre Plus staff thought, however, that it would be possible to provide a better service without significant extra costs for the DWP, for example, by making flexible working opportunities easier to identify, or sharing experiences of how best to meet carers’ needs amongst Jobcentre Plus staff.

The Department has generally worked well with partners in aligning services for carers across government. It has a range of relationships with other organisations in national and local government and with national charities, which have helped in implementing its policies.

"DWP’s services for carers are seen in a generally positive light by those taking them up, but not all eligible carers know about or take up the support on offer. Applying for Carer’s Allowance should be more straightforward, and support for carers seeking work should be more helpful by identifying part-time opportunities, in line with commitments made in the new National Strategy for Carers."

Tim Burr, head of the National Audit Office, 26 February 2009

Notes for Editors

  1. There are approximately six million unpaid carers in the UK looking after family members or friends who are ill or disabled. This figure is set to grow with an estimated further 1.6 million adults in need of care by 2026. Almost 900,000 carers receive support from the DWP, which pays Carer’s Allowance and additional payments on some other benefits – such as Income Support or Pension Credit – that carers may qualify for. The DWP also provides employment support to those who wish to combine paid work with their caring responsibilities. The Department’s support provides a means for society to share in the responsibility assumed by those who care for people who are sick or disabled.
  2. Carer’s Allowance is paid at £50.55 per week and in order to be eligible to claim it a carer cannot earn more than £95 per week and must care for at least 35 hours per week for a person who receives Disability Living Allowance Care Component at the middle or highest rate, Attendance Allowance or Constant Attendance Allowance. In May 2008 the Allowance was paid to 481,000 carers. A further 402,000 are theoretically entitled to Carer’s Allowance but, because of rules about overlapping entitlements to benefits, receive another benefit instead.
  3. Carers who satisfy the entitlement rules, whether or not they are paid Carer’s Allowance, can receive an addition with their income-related benefits. In May 2008, 469,200 people received this payment, known as the Carer premium or the Carer’s Additional Amount. This is worth up to £27.75 per week on Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Pension Credit, Housing Benefit, or Council Tax benefit.
  4. Press notices and reports are available from the date of publication on the NAO website, which is at www.nao.org.uk. Hard copies can be obtained from The Stationery Office on 0845 702 3474.
  5. The Comptroller and Auditor General, Tim Burr, is the head of the National Audit Office which employs some 850 staff. He and the NAO are totally independent of Government. He certifies the accounts of all Government departments and a wide range of other public sector bodies; and he has statutory authority to report to Parliament on the economy, efficiency and effectiveness with which departments and other bodies have used their resources.

Contact

NAO Press Office (Sarah Farndale)
Tel. NAO Press Office: +44 (0)20 7798 7400 Email: pressoffice@nao.gsi.gov.uk

PN: 12/09