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Carers NI amongst 92 organisations call on Government to make Carer’s Allowance Fairer for Carers

03 July 2020

Carers Northern Ireland has today sent an open letter, organised by Carers UK – and signed by 90 other organisations who represent unpaid carers, older people, and disabled adults and children – to the Work and Pensions Secretary, Rt Hon Therese Coffey MP, and the Chancellor Rishi Sunak MP, calling for increased financial support for unpaid carers across the UK.

Despite the huge contribution unpaid carers make to society, too many face financial hardship. At least 1.2 million carers are now living in poverty across the UK, whilst, on average, 600 carers a day are having to leave work in order to provide unpaid care. The coronavirus crisis has only compounding the difficulties many carers face; 81% of carers are spending more during the coronavirus outbreak – the rising costs they face include increased domestic bills, paying for additional care and support services, buying equipment to adapt homes, and/or purchasing technology to help with caring.

Carer’s Allowance, the main benefit for people caring unpaid for family or friends, remains the lowest benefit of its kind at £67.25 per week (2020/21 rates). Because of the low level of the payment and other entitlement conditions, including an earnings limit, the benefit continues to be ineffective in preventing financial hardship.

Carers NI has for many years been campaigning for better financial support for unpaid carers through its Fairer for Carers campaign. To alleviate the financial hardship that many unpaid carers face, we are now urgently calling for:

1.    An additional supplement to match increases in Universal Credit that have rightly recognised the challenges people on lower incomes have during the pandemic of additional costs. We are also calling for accompanying rises to Carer Premium and Carer Addition, and for this payment to be made to carers with an underlying entitlement to Carer’s Allowance, so older carers on low incomes can also benefit.

2.    For the earnings limit for claiming Carer’s Allowance to be raised, to ensure those juggling work and care on low pay also receive support. The current earnings threshold does not align with the National Living Wage (NLW), meaning a carer can only work for less than 15 hours per week without losing eligibility to Carer’s Allowance. The earnings limit should be raised from £128 a week to at least £139.52 for 2020/21 and should be linked to the NLW in future years.

You can read a copy of the letter here. To find out more about our Fairer for Carers campaign, click here.

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