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Carers: Coronavirus

Question for Department for Work and Pensions

UIN 152626, tabled on 10 February 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what steps her Department is taking to support unpaid carers during the covid-19 pandemic.

Answered on

24 February 2021

This Government recognises and values the vital contribution made by carers each and every day in supporting some of the most vulnerable in society including pensioners and those with disabilities. We will provide them with the help and support they need, including through the benefit system.

The support that carers provide has been even more vital during the Covid-19 pandemic when other support services may have been reduced or even closed and the caring role became even harder due to the need to self-isolate or shield the person they care for.

Unpaid carers may be able to apply for Carer’s Allowance if they meet the qualifying conditions, such as providing 35 hours of care a week. To ensure that carers already in receipt of Carer’s Allowance do not inadvertently stop receiving it because of changes to patterns of care, we have allowed emotional support to count towards the 35 hours of care being provided by the carer as well as relaxing the rules around breaks in care. These measures recognise that carers need extra flexibility in the way they provide care during the current emergency.

This Government continues to protect the value of benefits paid to carers whilst also spending record amounts in real terms. The level of Carer’s Allowance is protected by uprating it each year in line with the Consumer Price Index (CPI). The purpose of benefit uprating is to ensure that the value of benefits stays in line with the general level of prices. Carer’s Allowance is increased each April in line with inflation as measured by the CPI for the previous September. For the April 2021 increase we use the September 2020 CPI, which was 0.5 per cent. Since 2010, the rate of Carer’s Allowance has increased from £53.90 to £67.25 a week, meaning around an additional £700 a year for carers. Between 2020/21 and 2025/26 real terms expenditure on Carer’s Allowance is forecast to increase by nearly a third (around £1 billion). By 2025/26, the Government is forecast to spend just over £4bn a year on Carer’s Allowance.

As of May 2020, there were 1,674 carers in the Portsmouth South constituency that were claiming Carer’s Allowance, of which 1,302 were in receipt of Carer’s Allowance while 372 had an underlying entitlement to it (which can passport to carer premiums). In 2019/20 we spent approximately £4.7 million on Carer’s Allowance there.

Information on the number of people claiming Carer’s Allowance by Parliamentary constituency is published and available at:

https://stat-xplore.dwp.gov.uk

Guidance for users is available at:

https://stat-xplore.dwp.gov.uk/webapi/online-help/index.html

The latest information on benefit expenditure by parliamentary constituency including Carer’s Allowance is also published and available at:

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/920543/benefit-expenditure-by-parliamentary-constituency-2019-20.xlsx

But Carer’s Allowance isn’t the only benefit available to carers. Carers have access to the full range of social security benefits according to their circumstances. Income replacement benefits help people and households on lower incomes, and can include a carer premium, currently £37.50 a week. An equivalent additional amount applies in Pension Credit. Universal Credit also includes a carer element at the rate of £162.92 per monthly assessment period. These amounts recognise the additional contribution and responsibilities associated with caring and mean that lower-income carers can receive more money than others who receive these benefits. Between the existing carer-specific support, and the temporary Covid-19 uplift, 270,000 carer households receiving Universal Credit have benefitted from up to an extra £2,990 this financial year.