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Carers would struggle without Carer’s Allowance

Without Carer’s Allowance, some carers say they would have to cut back on food, fuel or transport costs or even cut back on their caring responsibilities or give up caring altogether to seek paid work.

This is one of the main findings of Department for Work and Pensions research into the experiences of people who are entitled to Carer’s Allowance – the main benefit available to help people caring for someone who is ill, older or has disability.

Aims of the Carer’s Allowance study

The research, carried out by the University of York’s Social Policy Research Unit,  looked at carers, their use of Carer’s Allowance, budgeting issues and how they can be better supported to return to work.

The main aims were to gain a better understanding of:

  • How Carer’s Allowance is viewed in terms of the household budget, and whether this varies by type of household
  • How recipients use Carer’s Allowance and what would be the impact of non-receipt
  • How the use of Carer’s Allowance varies depending on who is being cared for and where
  • What led to the decision to claim Carer’s Allowance
  • Whether receipt of Carer’s Allowance had different impacts at different times of the caring ‘career’
  • What impact caring had on labour market participation.

Other key findings from the Carer’s Allowance research

  • Carer’s Allowance is a vitally important part of household income and supports both everyday expenditure and the additional costs incurred. The majority of carers do not see Carer’s Allowance as separate from any other source of household income.
  • The benefit has a high symbolic value. It gives people status as a carer and reduces the stigma in terms of people who had to rely on social security benefits.
  • The relationship between caring and the labour market is varied and often complex. A small number of carers who had seen a reduction in their caring responsibilities were relatively close to the labour market. Many carers, however, were unable to contemplate paid work without significant packages of substitute care being put in place. Some, who were involved in high levels of caring activity, had no intention of seeking paid work while the person they were supporting was alive.
  • A large group of carers who would like to have paid work again, but could not see how that would be possible in the near future. Finding paid work that fits around caring responsibilities, and that can be flexible when unanticipated needs present themselves is essential, particularly for carers of disabled children.

Options for change in relation to Carer’s Allowance

The research explored a number of potential options for change in relation to Carer’s Allowance.

These included provision of a lump sum payment or providing further services for the person supported or the Carer’s Allowance claimant.

Carers were also asked how they would redesign the system. There was no common message from carers on rolling up Carer’s Allowance into another source of income and a one-off lump-sum payment gained very little support. Slightly more popular was the idea of a lump-sum followed by smaller, regular payments. A quarter of carers were largely happy with the system and could not think of any ways to change it.

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