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Volume 450: debated on Wednesday 25 October 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what plans he has to increase the financial support available to carers; (94045)

(2) if he will take steps to remove the gainfully employed rule preventing carers from earning more than £84 per week while claiming carer’s allowance of £46.95 per week.

Depending on their personal circumstances, carers have access to the full range of social security benefits. Those who are not gainfully employed and provide regular and substantial care of at least 35 hours a week for a severely disabled person receiving attendance allowance or the equivalent rates of the disability living allowance care component or constant attendance allowance can be entitled to carer’s allowance. If they have a low income, they can also be entitled to the carer premium in the income-related benefits or the carer’s additional amount in pension credit.

The effect of the carer’s allowance earnings limit is that carers are treated as gainfully employed only where their earnings, net of income tax, national insurance contributions, half of any contributions towards an occupational or personal pension and allowances for the cost of care for a child or the disabled person while the carer is at work, are more than the national insurance lower earnings limit. This means that it is possible for a carer to have gross earnings well in excess of the earnings limit and still be eligible for carer’s allowance. Together with carer’s allowance, the carer premium and carer’s additional amount, the earnings limit is increased each year to take account of movements in prices.

We have no plans to change these arrangements.