Carers looking after disabled adult could see benefits capped - charity


Carers who look after a disabled adult at home could see their benefits capped further as a result of new policies, a charity has warned.

The current cap means full-time carers claiming Carer's Allowance who look after someone who is neither a partner nor a child under 18 can receive no more than £500 per week if they are in a couple or have young children. It is £350 if they are single and without young children.

The Welfare Reform and Work Bill, which will be discussed on Monday, proposes lowering the £500 cap to £442 in London and £385 in the rest of the country, and the£350 cap to £296 and £258 respectively, from April this year.

Only carers who are within the same "benefit household" - meaning the person they care for is their partner or child under 18 - are protected from the cap. This means that people who care full-time for disabled parents, adult children, siblings or friends are not protected.

However, in November a High Court judge ruled that the cap amounted to "discrimination" against the disabled person's human rights in a case where carers were forced to take on employment to make ends meet.

But Carers UK has said that the Government has failed to take the ruling into account and is calling for the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) to exempt all full-time carers from the cap, regardless of what relation they are to the person they care for.

Eddy Graham, head of advice and information at the charity, said: "At the moment the Government hasn't done anything in response to the ruling.

"What we are asking for in Parliament is broader than in the High Court case, but to do justice to the logic of the argument, we think it should apply to all full-time carers.

"Around one million carers in total are entitled to Carer's Allowance, but the number affected by these caps is in the low thousands, so we believe that it would be easier and more equitable for the exemption to apply to all these people.

"The current cap is unfair because, even when a disabled child turns 18, their needs are the same, and it can be even harder for their carers as they are no longer within the education system and they have to go through adult social services for further support."

The High Court case was brought against the Work and Pensions Secretary by two families who each had a full-time carer looking after a grandparent. Their lawyer said that the cap had a "devastating impact" on their daily lives and the judge eventually ruled that it amounted to "objectively unjustifiable indirect discrimination".

Mr Graham said: "So far, the response from the Government is as if the judgement had never been made. But it is law and we hope that the department will respect that."

Ahead of Monday's meeting, a DWP spokesman said: "This Government values the hugely important contribution carers make to society - and 98% of carers with benefit levels over the cap are already exempt.

"We are carefully considering the judgment and will respond in due course."