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Home Responsibility Payment

Volume 487: debated on Tuesday 3 February 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what recent steps the Government has taken to raise awareness of the home responsibility payment. (251025)

I have been asked to reply.

Home Responsibilities Protection (HRP), introduced in 1978, is not a payment but a scheme to protect the future state pension entitlement of parents and other carers who are not in paid employment or who do not earn enough to gain a qualifying year for state pension through national insurance contributions. It works by taking away years of caring responsibilities from the number of qualifying years needed for a full basic state pension. Since 2002, it has also given entitlement to additional state pension in some circumstances.

Over 99 per cent. of people become eligible for Home Responsibilities Protection automatically through the award of child benefit for a child under 16. Most people who satisfy the conditions for receiving HRP as a carer for a disabled person also satisfy the conditions for carer's allowance as these are very similar. Since recipients of carer's allowance are credited with national insurance contributions, they do not normally need HRP.

There is publicity about HRP in a variety of leaflets concerning pensions and carers available in Jobcentre Plus offices, from the Pension, Disability and Carers Service and other outlets and on Government websites to alert the remaining carers to the need to make an application. Deficiency Notices issued by HMRC following the end of a tax year in which people have not gained a qualifying year for pension purposes also give advice about HRP and credits. There was an extensive national publicity campaign in early 2006 to make carers aware that they might need to apply for HRP in order to gain additional state pension.

The Pensions Act 2007 introduced a comprehensive package of reforms to help more carers build better pensions. These include the replacement of HRP with a system of weekly national insurance credits for parents and carers which will build up entitlement to basic and additional state pension and will extend pension protection to persons undertaking lower levels of caring. We are working to ensure that people are aware of the whole package of state pension reforms we will introduce from 2010. We want to reach all those who may be entitled to the new credits whether they have been in contact with the benefit system or not and will continue to work with interested parties to determine how best we deliver it.