Ministers clawing back £251m from carers hit by DWP’s allowance failures

Ministers are clawing back more than £250m from unpaid carers over benefit infringements that occurred largely as a result of government failures, it can be revealed.

More than 134,000 people who care for loved ones are being forced to repay often huge carer’s allowance overpayments. The debts are incurred in many cases through no fault of their own, and leave carers saddled with enormous debts, and some with criminal convictions.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) promised five years ago to fix the problems that mean carers are not immediately alerted when they earn more than the £151-a-week limit that renders them eligible for carer’s allowance.

However, a successions of ministers have failed to fix the problem, leaving tens of thousands of unpaid carers – who save the UK £160bn a year and help prop up NHS and social care services – in financial hardship while they repay the debt.

Ministers were made aware of the negative financial and emotional impact of overpayments on carers through a DWP-commissioned study completed in 2021, but its publication was blocked for three years until it was finally released on Thursday after pressure from MPs and campaigners.

The Guardian has revealed how more than 134,000 unpaid carers are repaying these huge penalties, in some cases as high as £20,000, as a result of the DWP’s failures. There are 156,000 outstanding carer’s allowance debts, suggesting some carers are paying back more than one overpayment.

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