Landmark benefit cap challenge bolsters rights of unpaid carers

Today, the High Court has ruled that carers in receipt of Carer’s Allowance should be exempt from the benefit cap, following a judicial review challenge to the policy and its impact on carers and the disabled, seriously-ill or older loved ones they support.

Carers UK, who provided evidence in this case, said today’s judgment is “a significant step towards greater recognition for carers and a strengthening of their rights.”

The challenge was brought forward by two families who argued the benefit cap is unfair and unlawful for carers and those they support. The families were represented by Rebekah Carrier, Solicitor and Director of Hopkin Murray Beskine Solicitors.

Whilst the Government brought in exemptions to the benefit cap for people on disability benefits, they failed to look at the spectrum of caring roles and situations, meaning that people caring for parents, grandparents, adult children or siblings were subject to the cap.

Heléna Herklots, Chief Executive of Carers UK, supplied evidence to the High Court in support of the challenge. Ms Herklots advocated for the exemption of carers from the benefit cap, and provided evidence on the importance of unpaid carers, the challenges carers face and the impact of the benefit cap and wider welfare reforms on families.

Responding to the judgment, Heléna Herklots, Chief Executive of Carers UK, said:

“Today’s judgment that carers in receipt of Carer’s Allowance should be exempt from the benefit cap is a significant step towards greater recognition for carers and a strengthening of their rights.

“Carers UK has pressed for changes to the benefit cap rules since the policy was first announced in 2010. We have continued to highlight the iniquity of further reducing the incomes of carers who are already contributing so much to our society – indeed, the value of carers’ unpaid support is worth £132 billion to the UK economy every year.

“People who are providing full-time care to a loved one will find it near-on impossible to cover the extra costs of the benefit cap. We already know from research with our members that nearly half of carers who provide substantial support to a loved one are struggling to make ends meet, and a similar number say financial worries are affecting their health.

“Subjecting those who provide unpaid care to the benefit cap is unfair, counterproductive and inconsistent with the Government’s stated aims for the policy3. We hope the Government accepts the High Court’s decision and brings forward new regulations to give all carers equal rights.”

The solicitor for the families, Rebekah Carrier, said:

“We welcome the High Court’s ruling today and urge the Secretary of State to take urgent action to address this discriminatory effect of the benefit cap. An exemption to the cap for my clients and others in a similar position must be drafted and laid before Parliament as soon as possible.

“My clients have been hit by the benefit cap because they are disabled or they provide essential care to their disabled relatives. They are not skivers – they are strivers. They provide full time care and save the State money. The High Court has recognised that, although the Government seeks to justify the cap by the financial savings achieved, the long term consequences of this arbitrary benefit cap are likely to have not only devastating consequences for individual disabled people and those who care for them, but serious financial costs. If Ashley Hurley or Lee Palmer are forced into stopping their important work as carers, the State will have to pick up the tab and arrange alternative care. This is not a fair or sensible policy. The Government must now take urgent action to comply with the High Court’s ruling.”

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