1st Aug 2008
A recent update regarding proposed changes to the benefits system, including a link to the governments’ consultation document relating to these changes has been issued by the Princess Royal Trust for Carers (PRTC) together with a response from The Trust highlighting the position of carers:
The government has issued a consultation document on making some major changes to a number of unemployment and incapacity benefits. The consultation is called, “No one written off: reforming welfare to reward responsibility” and is at www.dwp.gov.uk/welfarereform
It proposes that people who are currently receiving Income Support (IS) will be moved to receiving Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) and that IS will eventually be abolished. It is suggested that carers may be initially exempt from this transfer, but that where it does happen, this will not affect the amount of money carers get, nor will it affect Carers Allowance. The reforms propose to ask job seekers to do more in order to continue to receive JSA, but the government has given assurances that whilst carers will get better access to support to get back to work if they need it, they will be exempt from having to accept work-focused interviews, take up offers of employment or the other measure that will be made more stringent for job seekers. Couples will be required to make joint claims for JSA, and it will be harder for one partner to claim where the other is judged to be available for work, but again carers will be exempt from this.
The consultation says:
“As we committed to in the recent Carers Strategy we need to work towards creating a benefit system that cannot only adapt to the specific needs of carers, but also helps prepare them for their future. We will continue to do this, using the principles outlined in the Carers Strategy. We believe that it is only right that carers are able to gain from the same opportunities as others within the benefits system.”
The Trust recognizes that the current benefits system does not work for carers and that change is needed. We welcome the government’s clear commitment to ensure that carers do not lose out through the proposed changes and that they are not asked to comply with unreasonable requirements in order to claim benefits. We remain very concerned about the thousands of carers who do no meet the Department of Work and Pensions definition of “carer” which is of someone eligible for Carers Allowance, a benefit that excludes most carers of people with mental health and substance misuse problems. The new system must put in place a more intelligent definition of “carer” to avoid continuing this injustice.