The Government acknowledged in the revised National Carer Strategy, published in June 2008, that the current system of carers' benefits is not flexible enough to adapt to the wide variety of circumstances, responsibilities and needs that carers face.
The 10-year strategy has a long-term commitment to review the structure of benefits available to carers in the context of wider benefit reform and the fundamental review of the care and support system.
It highlighted, as a priority, that children and young people will be protected from inappropriate caring and have the support they need to learn, develop and thrive, and to enjoy positive childhoods. We are committed to young carers having the same access to education, career and life choices as their peers and to enabling and encouraging them to attend and enjoy school and further or higher education.
The Government's vision for young carers is one where active prevention—protecting young people from falling into inappropriate caring—is the priority and a guiding principle behind the planning and delivery of services to support them and their families.
The Department for Work and Pensions has commissioned the Centre for Research into Care, Labour and Equalities, based at the University of Leeds, to conduct a detailed investigation into the circumstances of carer's allowance recipients. This involves a survey of 1,600 carers who receive the allowance, followed by in-depth interviews and focus group meetings with 90 individuals, selected as representative of the overall carer's allowance population, as well as discussions with professionals working with these customers. We expect to publish the research in summer 2010.
The Department for Work and Pensions is also assisting the Department of Health in carrying out a large-scale survey of carers in England. This includes a number of questions designed to yield information about carer's allowance recipients. Headline results are expected in July 2010, with a full report in autumn 2010.
In addition to carer's allowance, carers on low incomes can also receive a carer premium or additional amount for carers with income-related benefits such as income support and pension credit. The premium has been progressively increased from £14.15 a week in April 2000 to its current level of £29.50.
We are also providing further help for carers who are able to combine some paid employment with their caring responsibilities by increasing the carer's allowance weekly earnings limit from £95 to £100 in April 2010.