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Volume 456: debated on Wednesday 31 January 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what his most recent estimate is of (a) how many carers there are in the UK, (b) how many hours, on average, they spend fulfilling their carer responsibilities and (c) what the cost per hour of care would be to the public purse if they were not providing such care. (102061)

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the written answer given to my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Marsden) on 4 December 2006, Official Report, column 155W.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) how many carer’s allowance recipients receive the adult dependency increase; and how many new carers are expected to be eligible to receive it in each year up to 2010; (113369)

(2) what assessment has been made of the effect of the removal of the adult dependency increase in carer’s allowance for new claims from 2010, as announced by the Chancellor in his pre-Budget report.

Adult dependency increases were originally introduced to recognise of the fact that many married women did not have employment outside the home. In the case of carer’s allowance, the increase is paid for the carer’s spouse, civil partner or someone who looks after the carer’s children, where that person earns less than the amount of the adult dependency increase, which is currently £28.05 a week.

As at 31 May 2006, the latest date for which information is available, some 410,000 people entitled to carer’s allowance were receiving income support or pension credit, whereas only around 15,900 were receiving an adult dependency increase. Available forecasts suggest that some 3,000 new carer’s allowance awards in 2006-07 and in 2007-08 will include an adult dependency increase. Forecasts are not available currently for 2008-09 and 2009-10.

The Government intend to remove adult dependency increases for new claims for carer’s allowance from 2010. However, adult dependency increases already in payment at 2010 will continue until entitlement ends or until 2020, whichever is earlier. Only a small number of carers who claim carer’s allowance from 2010 onwards are likely to be affected by the removal of adult dependency increases for new claims, because those in lower income households receiving either an income-related benefit or pension credit will be compensated in these benefits for the non-availability of the adult dependency increase.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make it his policy to pay carers a benefit which is consistent with the minimum wage rate. (117155)

Carer’s allowance is not a “carers’ wage”, therefore, the connection with the national minimum wage is not appropriate. It is an income-maintenance benefit for people who are not in full-time work and who regularly provide substantial care of at least 35 hours per week for a severely disabled person receiving either attendance allowance or the equivalent rates of the disability living allowance care component. People receiving carer’s allowance can have earnings, net of a range of expenses including the cost of alternative care for either the severely disabled person or a child under 16 years of age while the carer is at work, of up to the national insurance lower earnings limit, currently £84 per week.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will allow people in receipt of a state retirement pension over the age of 60 to become eligible for carer’s allowance. (117156)

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply I gave on 16 June 2006, Official Report, column 1468W, to the hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr. Jackson).