The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has demanded that unpaid carers return over £250million due to benefit overpayments.

As of 14 May 2024, the DWP was in the process of reclaiming funds from 134,800 individuals who had claimed Carer’s Allowance, according to new figures. These statistics were disclosed by the DWP following a parliamentary question posed by Labour MP Sir Stephen Timms.

Carer’s Allowance, valued at £81.90 per week, is granted to those who provide care for someone for at least 35 hours weekly. While it is possible to work alongside this, earnings must not exceed £151 per week after tax, National Insurance, pension contributions, and allowable expenses.

If earnings surpass this limit, even by £1, entitlement to the benefit is lost and repayment is required. In some cases, carers can also face prosecution.

Charities supporting carers have highlighted the complexity of the rules regarding earnings while claiming the benefit, particularly when hours or pay rates change or fluctuate. This has led many carers to inadvertently breach the rules, reports the Mirror.

DWP data reveals that the majority of Carer’s Allowance claimants are women, with 720,000 female claimants compared to 271,000 men. The data also indicates that more women than men are indebted to the DWP, with 91,900 women and 42,800 men owing repayments.

The Guardian has exposed a scandal, revealing the plight of carers who have been sharing their harrowing stories in recent weeks. The Work and Pensions Committee, in a letter to Mel Stride MP, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, underscored the “mental distress” some claimants have endured.

The committee also questioned why it took the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) years to identify overpayments, resulting in families being burdened with repaying thousands. In response to these issues, the Government is considering new approaches, such as contacting claimants via email and text messages.

The Work and Pensions Committee has pressed for these changes to be implemented swiftly to prevent further hardship.

A DWP spokesperson responded to the Pension Committee’s concerns in a statement to the Mirror: “Carers across the UK are unsung heroes who make a huge difference to someone else’s life and we have increased Carer’s Allowance by almost £1,500 since 2010. We are progressing an enhanced notification strategy as part of our ongoing commitment to customer engagement, which will help ensure customers fulfil their obligations to inform DWP when changes in their circumstances have occurred, building on existing communications. We are committed to fairness in the welfare system, with safeguards in place for managing repayments, while protecting the public purse.”

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