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Carer's Allowance

Volume 448: debated on Wednesday 28 June 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will introduce proposals to enable carers to receive carer’s allowance after the age of 60. (80384)

Carer’s allowance, formerly known as invalid care allowance, has always been available to carers aged below state pension age. From 1994 it was made available to women aged between 60 and 65, and from 2002 we abolished the upper age limit for making a claim.

People entitled to carer’s allowance can have the additional amount for carers, currently £26.35 a week, included in the assessment of their pension credit. This applies both to those in receipt of carer’s allowance and those who cannot be paid because they are receiving at least an equivalent amount from a state pension. It is a basic principle of the social security system that only one benefit at a time can be paid for the same purpose. Even though the circumstances which give rise to carer’s allowance and state pension are different, they are both designed to provide a degree of replacement for lost or forgone income. We have no plans to change the current arrangements.

As at November 2005, more than 42,500 people aged 60 or over were receiving carer’s allowance and more than 181,800 had the additional amount for carers included in their pension credit.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate he has made of the amount of carer’s allowance for which there was eligibility but no claims in each of the last five years. (80446)

[holding answer 26 June 2006]: Entitlement to carer’s allowance depends on whether the qualifying conditions are satisfied, and this can be reliably established only after a claim has been made. There are no data available from which a reliable estimate might be made of the number of carers who would meet the conditions if they claimed.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what support the benefits system provides for those who become carers of vulnerable people after they themselves have passed retirement age; whether this differs from those who become carers before their age of retirement; what plans he has to change the system to improve the treatment of carers who are over retirement age; and if he will make a statement. (66763)

Carers have equal access to the full range of income maintenance social security benefits, whether they are above or below state pension age. In particular, they are able to apply equally for carer’s allowance, which is an income maintenance benefit for people who regularly spend at least 35 hours a week caring for a severely disabled person.

Lower-income people of pension age may receive pension credit in addition to their state pension. Pension credit recipients are guaranteed a weekly income of £114.05 for a single person or £174.05 for a couple. Carers entitled to carer’s allowance have the carer’s additional amount, currently £26.35 a week, included in the assessment of their pension credit. For both working age and pension age carers entitled to carer’s allowance, additional help is available through the carer premium, also set at £26.35 a week, in housing benefit and council tax benefit. This premium is available to working age carers in income support and income-based jobseeker’s allowance.

The overlapping benefits rules, which mean that two income maintenance benefits cannot be paid together, also apply equally to carers below state pension age receiving benefits such as incapacity benefit and to pension age carers receiving basic state pension.

We have no plans to change these arrangements.