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.