For the benefit of anyone in the same position, I would like to post on an issue related to Carers Allowance that has affected me specifically due to being self-employed.
My business year is aligned with the Government financial year, 6th April to 5th April. Up until 2016/17 my earnings were such that despite caring for my mum for much more than 35 hours per week, I did not qualify. Following a crisis for my mum at the end of 2016, my caring role stepped up significantly to the point that I have had to virtually cease work. Then, when I submitted my 2017/18 accounts to HMRC, I realised that due to my caring role, my net profit had now dropped below the threshold for Carers Allowance. So, AgeUK came in, helped me fill out the forms and also do mum’s attendance allowance forms. Looking good so far!
Being new to this, my first surprise (and perhaps I shouldn’t have been) was that when the claim was accepted I found that my 2017/18 financial statements entitled me to carers allowance for the coming year 2018/19 i.e. one year in arrears and that I would not be entitled to anything for the full year of caring I’d done in 2017/18.
The second surprise was that because it took some time after the end of the tax year on 5th April 2018 to prepare the accounts and then to wait for AgeUK to come and help do the form, we did not submit the claim until more than three months after the start of the tax year. I then found that when the payments came through that there is a rule that says that it can only be backdated 3 months from the date of claim so I lost 2 months worth of the allowance. I have challenged this on the basis of it being unreasonable but no response so far.
The final surprise was that on 11th April this year I got a letter from the Carers Allowance Unit of the DWP stating that my last payment would be on the 15th April and that the benefit would then be withdrawn until I submit my 2018/19 financial statement to re-prove my eligibility for 2019/20. Further, it went on to say that said claim must be submitted by 22nd April. Now, that’s 11 calendar days of which 4 days were weekends and 2 were Easter bank holiday days leaving just 5 working days to get it all done. Whilst I do understand that the DWP needs to re-establish eligibility each year, this seems to me to be completely unreasonable and takes no account of the fact that you might need to wait to get accountants involved in preparing the accounts. What also upset me was just the general tone of the letter.
I just don’t agree with this approach. If you can prove that for a given year you’ve done the caring and that your earned income was below the threshold, you should get the benefit and just like other benefits, it should be fully back-dateable to allow a reasonable time to submit the accounts and paperwork.
We are told so often how important carers are to the state, how much we save the state and how much we are appreciated but I have to say, sometimes it just does not feel like it.
I also wonder how this stacks up against paragraph 2.17 of the Department of Health and Social Care’s “Carers Action Plan 2018-2020” where it says:-
“The Department for Work and Pensions will ensure that benefits for carers (including Carer’s Allowance and Universal Credit) meet the needs of carers and support employment for those carers who are able to work”
I know Carers UK are campaigning about the amount of Carers Allowance and I have signed their petition but I do feel there are other structural and design issues with this benefit and that it is long overdue for a complete overhaul. It is based solely on earned income and so you could have massive amounts of savings and high income from private pension funds but still qualify. On the contrary, you could have no savings or other income but be just over the earnings threshold, really up against it and yet not qualify. Seems completely bonkers to me!