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Carer's Allowance

Volume 485: debated on Tuesday 16 December 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) if he will assess the effects of the policy of ceasing carer’s allowance when a carer reaches pensionable age; and if he will make carer’s allowance available to those of pensionable age; (244249)

(2) how many carers had their entitlement to carer’s allowance removed as a result of reaching pensionable age in each of the last five years.

Carer’s allowance is available to all carers who meet the entitlement criteria, aged 16 or over. Entitlement is not withdrawn when a carer reaches pension age.

However, carer’s allowance is an income-replacement benefit and as such, is subject to the overlapping benefit rules. Where a carer is entitled to another income-replacement benefit, such as state pension, then they will be paid the benefit that gives them the highest amount. In the case of pensioners, this is normally state pension.

Low-income carers who have an entitlement to carer’s allowance can benefit from the additional amount for carers in pension credit even where state pension is paid instead of carer’s allowance. About 240,000 people now receive this extra help.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what recent consideration he has given to increasing the value of the carer’s allowance; (244279)

(2) if he will review the policy that prevents higher education students who are also carers keeping their carer’s allowance entitlement when they study for more than 21 hours a week.

The level of carer’s allowance and its conditions of entitlement, including the 21-hour full-time education rule, were considered by the income task force, created as part of the review of the National Carers Strategy. The new strategy was published in June 2008, and included the report from the taskforce, which gave options for changes to carer’s allowance. However, the main finding of the income task force was that the current system of carers’ benefits needs to be fundamentally re-examined.

In the White Paper “Raising expectations and increasing support: reforming welfare for the future”, published 10 December 2008, we underlined our commitment to looking at carers’ benefits in the context of our wider ambitions for welfare reform. We will aim to design a system that is able to provide support where it is most needed and that can adapt to the wide range of needs that carers have, enabling carers to maintain a balance between their caring responsibilities and a life outside caring.

The level of carer’s allowance is considered annually as part of the uprating process. The proposed rate for carer’s allowance from April 2009 was announced on 11 December as £53.10.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what comparative assessment he has made of the level of carers' allowance in the UK compared to other EU member states who administer a similar allowance for benchmarking purposes. (244280)

The Government have not undertaken a formal comparative assessment of level of carer's allowance in the UK compared to other EU member states.

However, we have committed to looking at carers' benefits as we move forward with welfare reform. As part of this we will look to learn from best practice both in the UK and internationally.