Background to the report
The Department for Work & Pensions (the Department) pays £66.15 a week in Carer’s Allowance to people who earn less than £123 a week and provide at least 35 hours of care a week to someone who receives a qualifying disability benefit. In 2017-18, the Department paid £2.9 billion in Carer’s Allowance to 826,000 carers. The number of people in receipt of Carer’s Allowance has increased by 50% since 2010-11, in part due to the growth in the number of people receiving qualifying benefits, such as Personal Independence Payment.
The Department sometimes overpays or underpays Carer’s Allowance, so the claimant receives more or less than they are entitled to. This can be due to claimant fraud or error, or error by the Department, known as official error. The Department detected 93,000 overpayments in 2018-19 compared with an average of 41,000 a year detected in the previous five years.
The NAO undertook this investigation because Members of Parliament have expressed concerns about the level of Carer’s Allowance overpayments and the impact on claimants of the Department’s attempts to recover them.
Content and scope of the report
This investigation examines both the concerns about the recent increase in identified errors and attempts to recover overpayments, and how the Department has managed fraud and error in Carer’s Allowance over time. It sets out:
- the recent increase in detected overpayments and how the Department is attempting to recover overpayments (Part One);
- the Department’s understanding of the causes of overpayments in Carer’s Allowance (Part Two); and
- the Department’s progress in improving detection and prevention of overpayments (Part Three).