Ex-ministers press Sunak on ‘persecution’ of carers who broke earnings rules | Carers

The “scandalous” prosecution of unpaid carers exposed by the Guardian must end now and an investigation must begin immediately, Rishi Sunak has been told.

Three former Work and Pensions Secretaries and the Labor Party explain why they unknowingly breached earnings rules yet left thousands of people looking after loved ones being chased out for thousands of pounds and, in some cases, guilty. Pressure mounted on the prime minister, demanding to know whether he had been sentenced. A few pounds a week.

Unpaid carers have been chased by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) for “honest mistakes” that authorities could have discovered years ago, racked up debts, criminal records and had their homes destroyed. He said he was forced to sell.

Former Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith, Labour’s Alan Johnson and David, after dozens of unpaid carers came forward to complain about how forced they were. – Mr. Blunkett’s three former secretaries of state also joined. Distress caused by the actions of the DWP.

Mr Blunkett said: ‘It is right that the Government should urgently consider why this system is reaching its limits and hurting those who are providing much-needed support to their loved ones.’ Told.

He said the welfare system was “broken” and compared the “persecution of carers” to Britain’s failure to tackle the tens of billions of pounds lost each year to tax evasion.

Mr Johnson said the DWP had a duty to “treat unpaid carers with kindness”. Britain could save £160bn a year And they have very little income and an incredibly stressful life.

He said there was a “need” for the DWP.[s] “This is to ascertain whether any overpayments were made before making any decisions regarding repayment,” he added. “It is questionable whether the threat of legal proceedings is appropriate in this situation.”

Conservative MP Caroline Dinenage, chair of the all-party group of carers, said: ‘The number of people who breach carer allowance overpayments suggests this issue needs government attention. “There is,” he said. This is particularly the case if the DWP does not notify individuals of the situation promptly, which can result in months (or even years) of overpayments. ”

Alison McGovern, acting Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, on Friday called for an urgent investigation as the scandal continues to unfold.

She said: “It is outrageous that the Conservatives have failed to use real-time information to stop overpayments. It is a waste of money and extremely stressful for carers. Why should the Government do this? We urgently need to investigate what happened and outline what steps we are taking to rectify it, including publishing the full report on the matter.”

The Guardian could reveal that MPs are expected to ask Health Secretary Mims Davies about the issue of carer allowance overpayments when she gives evidence to the Work and Pensions Committee later this month. be.

Four MPs on the committee, including chair Stephen Timms, raised concerns about the DWP’s actions following this week’s Guardian report.

Timms said lawmakers plan to ask Davis about the issue when he appears before the committee on April 24. “There’s clearly something wrong with this,” he said.

Conservative member of the committee Nigel Mills said the DWP was to blame for failing to stop overpayments from increasing and said it was clear unpaid carers “should not face any penalties”. .

He said: “By definition, carers receiving this allowance cannot earn much, so there is no way to actually repay this allowance. Some of them earn more than their state benefit. Some people are living on low incomes. It’s a really tough situation for people.”

Ministers will ask why the DWP continues to fail to detect overpayments early, despite pledging to tackle the issue five years ago after it came under heavy criticism over its treatment of thousands of carers. I’m being forced to explain.

A 2019 Work and Pensions Committee report accused the DWP of “bullying and harassing” people who were overpaying them the equivalent of £81.90 a week in carer allowance, the lowest amount for this type of benefit. did.

The group accused the DWP of mismanagement that failed to catch the breach early, and of strict rules that “lead carers to their knees”.

At the time, ministers promised to tackle the issue of overpayments through new data-matching technology, but huge numbers of carers are still caught up in the scheme, forced to pay back large sums of money and, in some cases, forced to pay back large sums of money and, in some cases, to the DWP’s fraud investigators. assets are being seized. .

The committee’s Labor MP Debbie Abrahams on Friday called the DWP’s approach “simply vindictive” and said the committee would question ministers about the “inadequate support carers are receiving”. He said he is enthusiastic about doing so.

DWP administrators have been described as a “scandalous miscarriage of justice” by the center-right think tank the Center for Social Justice and “the cruelest benefits crackdown we have ever seen” by a former senior Labor aide. ”

In a message to DWP staff this week, one senior official described media reports as “one-sided” and sought to defend those dealing with carer’s allowance claims, saying the dispute was “not a good idea for how DWP collects debts”. “The focus is on whether to do it, and it’s not evenly distributed.” It is aimed at the caregiver process anyway. ”

A DWP spokesperson said that since 2010, carer allowance for unpaid carers has increased by around £1,500. This works out to be an increase of around £28 per week, or slightly higher than the rate of inflation.

“We are committed to equity in the welfare system by putting safeguards in place to manage repayments while protecting public funds,” they said.

“The plaintiff has a responsibility to notify DWP of any changes in circumstances that may affect the award, and it is right to recover taxpayers’ money where that has not happened.”