Carer’s Allowance Overpayments -Don’t Blame Unpaid Carers!

What the DWP is doing to unpaid carers is abhorrent. They are punishing the very people that the government relies on caring for loved ones 24/7 for a fraction of the cost that the government would need to fork out in social care.

Don’t know what I’m talking about? Let’s talk about Carer’s Allowance overpayments!

Just over a week ago, news reports emerged that authorities prosecuted Vivienne Groom, an unpaid carer, for fraud due to overpayments of Carer’s Allowance between 2014 to 2019. Since then journalist have discovered more stories, like Patrick Butler at The Guardian, of carers being prosecuted or having to repay thousands for breaching earnings limit of £151, the majority by mistake.

Unpaid Carer Prosecuted for Fraud

Vivienne Groom didn’t deliberately try to defraud the DWP. It was a genuine mistake after consulting with the claim line, whilst caring for her mum and struggling financially. She took on a part time job in good faith but the DWP didn’t see it like that. They tried to recoup all the Carer’s Allowance paid via a payment plan. But that wasn’t enough once they learned of her inheritance after years of caring. They took the case to court and seized her £16,000 inheritance from her mum.

The judge was scathing about the actions of the DWP, who over 4 court appearances never supplied the true amount of overpayments above the earnings threshold of £151 per week, likely less than half of that recovered.

An overpayment is where you earn more than the weekly earning threshold of £151 per week (or unknowingly become ineligible for the benefit). If you breach that, they don’t just claim back the amount that was overpaid but all of the allowance even if you breach it by just £1 e.g If you earned £152 over 12 weeks, £1 over the threshold limit then DWP would claim back not just £12 £1×12 weeks but the full Carer’s Allowance of £81.90 per week (currently) x 12 weeks =£982.80

How cruel and heartless is that, after years of caring, she made a honest mistake but instead of having compassion or writing off the debt they took her inheritance. Why is it easier to pursue the vulnerable and those on low income than those who dodge taxes, or write off billions debt for the supply of defective PPE equipment?

Read more stories here:-
– A sole carer for her daughter most of the week, was told she needed to repay £11,292.75 or be prosecuted for fraud
– DWP forces woman to pay back almost £6,000 after she picked up extra shift at work

And in case you’re wondering you only qualify for Carer’s Allowance if you’re caring for someone with a qualifying benefit for more than 35 hours a week, aren’t on a overlapping benefit like pension credit, studying for more than 21 hours a week or earn more than £151 per week. So you’re already working full time, unpaid and then have to fit in additional work to make ends meet.

How is that fair?

Don’t Blame Unpaid Carers!

I know a lot of naysayers have dismissed & blamed unpaid carers for unknowingly breaking the rules. But the Carer’s Allowance unit should be catching these breaches with their IT systems, but more importantly the rules need to be easier to understand and fairer to unpaid carers. If the DWP can make mistakes – how are overworked unpaid carer supposed to work them out? Some people have lost their homes, families, had mental breakdowns for amounts that were 50p -£3.00 over the £151 earnings limit

Carer’s Allowance isn’t fit for purpose, it took a whistle blower to repeatedly raise the alarm (since 2010) on Carer’s Allowance overpayments for a National Audit Office (NAO) investigation and a House of Commons Works & Pension Committee Inquiry. Their recommendations haven’t been acted upon. Unpaid carers are being punitively pursued for overpayments that the NAO & Select Committee Inquiry found were mostly overpayments due to “honest mistakes” and because “the design of Carer’s Allowance sets carers up for a fall”.  

Are You Caught In The Carer’s Allowance Overpayments Trap?

Here a few things you can do if you’re dealing with overpayment issues:-

  1. Always let the Carer’s Allowance Unit know about any change of circumstances (however small & even if you have already notified another benefit department) and ask for written confirmation that they have been informed. Additionally, request information on how those changes will affect your Carer’s Allowance payments.
  2. If you receive a letter informing you that you have been overpaid and the authorities have stopped your Carer’s Allowance.
    • Request a written statement of the reasons for the overpayment as it may be difficult to work out where it occurred.
    • If you disagree or believe there has been an error request a mandatory reconsideration within one month of the date of the decision and contact an advice agency for support like Citizens Advice, Carers UK etc.  Depending on the reasons given you may need to appeal further to a First Tier Tribunal again within one month of the mandatory reconsideration decision
    • If it’s an honest mistake because of confusion on the regulations, changes in working hours/bonuses/pay rise discuss your options with the advice agencies. They can also help you determine if you have any deductible expenses that can reduce your earnings threshold, such as 50% of contributions to a pension scheme or business expenses like mileage and clothing. Even highlight things that shouldn’t be counted as part of your earnings e.g a meal allowance. They can also advocate for you in negotiating a repayment plan to avoid financial hardship.
    • If the DWP are accusing you of fraud, then seek legal advice straight away as they may call you in for an interview under caution.
    • The Good Law Project is offering to provide or arrange representations for anyone currently dealing with the DWP. You can contact them here – Good Law Project

Also note if you do have to pay back the Carer’s Allowance, check if your loved one has not lost out on other benefits, if for example like Severe Disability Premium over the same time . (Review this with an advice agency as it impacts several types of benefits)

Share Your Experience!

We know that Carer’s Allowance is unfair and needs reform. For things to change we need to keep sharing our stories.  If you’ve been through this, and want to share your story then The Guardian news team and Carers UK have forms to submit information anonymously on how you’ve been treated with issues on overpayment or prosecutions for fraud.

Click here for the Carers UK survey form

Click here for The Guardian Survey form

Finally – Sign the Petition

Whilst your here, why not support unpaid carers by signing the petition to raise Carer’s Allowance to equal to 35 hours at 50% of the living wage. The current rate of Carer’s Allowance for the minimum of 35 hrs of caring for a loved one is equivalent to £2.19 an hour (£76.75 week)….but carers do many more hours than that. So sign this petition to increase the rate so that unpaid carers receive the proposed rate of £182.36 a week. They’re almost at the first stage of getting the government to respond which needs 10,000 signatures. Pls share and sign – Increase Carer’s Allowance petition

Thank you for your support.

2 thoughts on “Carer’s Allowance Overpayments -Don’t Blame Unpaid Carers!”

  1. It doesn’t surprise me sadly how DWP treat carers. It doesn’t surprise me how long it took before DWP realised. And yes, they need to be much quicker on that.
    When I told DWP on something I ft was wrong that they were paying to my mum, (the first time was querying), I heard nothing. Over a year later I think it was, or a bit longer, I noticed no payments were going in. I then queried. Eventually, cos as usual they are in no hurry, they tell me why they have stopped (which yes as I told them second time should she still be receiving it,) telling me where they got info from. Nothing on there that I made attempts twice with them and wrote an angry letter back saying how I told them twice, questioning them should she be receiving it still because of this and hearing nothing. I heard nothing from complaint either.

    I was so sad and angry when I read those news articles recently of the carers peanalised by a simple mistake.
    And the judge who thought it was unfair what DWP was doing then couldn’t he have done something then lay the charge? Or is his hands that tied? Or is he doing something personally behind the scenes to try and change this?

    But it is disgusting. Had I been on a situation where I could have claimed this at the time I cared for mum and working part time, I would have struggled with all that too with the stresses and tiring of being a carer as well as when I used to do the deputyship role.

  2. Simply disgraceful. I am a full time carer who does not claim Carers allowance. The paid work I am able to do now takes me over the threshold most weeks. No, I do not neglect the person I care for. It is a hard balancing act, exhausting at times, but needed for me the carer, for my dignity.I am “fortunate” I can do meaningful work in addition to my caring role. It is also important for my partner to see I have utmost respect for all those providing care, non whatsoever with the unjust reclamation of overpayments and a system which “disables” a carer from doing most work

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