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Carers: Financial Support

Volume 597: debated on Monday 22 June 2015

This Government recognise and appreciate the vital contribution made by carers. We have ensured that carers are central to the Government’s reforms to care and support, and there are stronger rights for carers in the Care Act 2014, which came into force in April 2015. Since 2010, the rate of carer’s allowance has increased from £53.90 to £62.10, and this April we increased the earnings threshold for carers by 8% to £110 a week. The Government are committed to continuing to provide financial support for carers throughout the benefits system.

Young carers in our society perform a vital role, often balancing their responsibility of caring with work or study, yet young carers in full-time education are not entitled to carer’s allowance. What will the Secretary of State do to remedy that injustice?

I remind the hon. Gentleman that this was very much the situation when his party was in government—before he starts lecturing us too much on what we have done. We have done more to improve the status of carers, and we support carers enormously. As I said, in universal credit we are adding an extra benefit for them by allowing the work allowances for carers to support them as well. I am certainly happy to look at the particular situation he asked about, and I will write to him.

As the Secretary of State will know, the Bath Carers Centre in my constituency does a superb job of supporting carers and their families. What assurances can I give people there as to the Government’s plans on supporting carers in the coming years?

As I have said, we did a huge amount to support carers in the last Parliament, and we intend to continue to protect and support them throughout this Parliament. Carers do a huge amount to support people, including in the national health service, and including people with disabilities. This has been our promise and our pledge. We will continue to support carers.

The Secretary of State referred to the shadow Secretary of State; I am pleased to tell the House that she gave birth to a baby boy last Wednesday and that mother and baby are doing well. The Secretary of State referred to disabled people and the effect on them of the £12 billion benefit cuts. It now appears that the anxiety and uncertainty facing carers will be extended, because we will not get the full list of cuts on 8 July; we will have to await a further statement in the autumn. When the final list of £12 billion is announced, will carers be protected from those cuts?

First, will the right hon. Gentleman pass on our thanks—I mean congratulations—to the hon. Lady on her great news? I have already made it clear that we have done a great deal to support carers, and it is my intention to keep on supporting them. It is worth pointing out that our changes improved the lot of carers over the course of the previous Parliament, and will continue to do so.

The absence of any reassurance there will give rise to a great deal of concern among carers. May I ask the Secretary of State about working families on lower and average incomes? Will they be better off or worse off once his £12 billion of cuts have been announced?

We are looking at welfare, and at how to reform it. When we are ready, I will come forward with an announcement. Let me take the right hon. Gentleman back to the issue of tax credits. We have had many Labour Members going on about tax credits. I looked up how tax credits were increased under a Labour Government. Interestingly, it appears that just before every election, the Labour Government dramatically increased tax credits—in 2004 by 60%; in 2005, just before the election, by 7.2%; and in 2010, just before the election, by 14.4% and by 8.5%. The truth is that his Government have always used benefits as a way of trying to buy votes. We believe that benefits are about supporting people to do the right thing, to get back to work, and to live a more prosperous life.