The Department for Work and Pensions recognises the valuable efforts of carers in supporting sick or disabled family members, friends and neighbours.
Depending upon their circumstances, carers have access to the full range of social security benefits. In particular, through payment of carer's allowance, the Department provides income maintenance support to over 450,000 carers providing at least 35 hours of care per week for severely disabled people receiving attendance allowance, or the equivalent rates of the disability living allowance care component, or a constant attendance allowance paid under the industrial injuries disablement benefit or war pension schemes. Around 216,000 low-income carers are supported through the carer premium in income support and income-based jobseekers allowance, while a further 195,000 receive the carers additional amount in pension credit.
We are continuing to make it easier for carers to claim their benefit entitlements. Since December 2003, carers have been able to make electronic claims for carer's allowance. Next month, we are introducing a shortened claim form for pension-age carers, which will make it easier for them to claim carer's allowance and, subsequently, the carer's additional amount in pension credit.
The Pensions Bill, introduced on 28 November 2006, contains a number of initiatives to help carers build up better entitlement to state pensions. It includes a new ‘carers credit’ for those caring for severely disabled people for at least 20 hours a week, a reduction to 30 in the number of qualifying years needed for a full basic state pension, and changes to make it easier for carers to accrue the second state pension. The reduction in qualifying years for the full basic state pension will particularly help carers with gaps in their work records.
Working age carer’s allowance claimants who wish to combine caring and work have access to a range of support and services available from Jobcentre Plus, for example through the New Deal or a voluntary work focused interview with a trained personal advisor.
As with all our policies, the Department will continue to regularly evaluate its support for carers.
The estimated gross cost of exempting all pensioners with entitlement to carer's allowance from the overlapping benefits rule would be around £660 million. After adjusting for offsets in income-related benefits and pension credit the net cost would be around £370 million. This estimate does not take account of carers presently not claiming carer's allowance who might be induced to do so by a change in the rules.