'THINK' POLICY NEWSLETTER - October 2022
The Advice NI Policy & Information team is delighted to publish the October 2022 edition of our policy eNewsletter ‘THINK’.
This is such a difficult time for everyone across Northern Ireland, however it is a terrible time for those on the lowest incomes (both in and out of work) who have endured a decade of austerity. They are now finding it impossible to cope with average inflation running at 10% but as high as 30% for many essential food items such as meat, dairy, bread and cereals – not to mention the energy bill price hikes. Surviving this crisis should now be the focus and to that end there are a number of things that need to happen:
- The UK Government need to commit to social security benefit uprating in line with inflation for those out of work and in low paid work;
- Restoration of the NI Executive to agree a budget and deliver for the people who are in crisis right now
Our Information Officer has updated our Policy & Information Briefing for advisers, on the cost of living measures to reflect all of the detail following the recent announcements, and we are adding helpful information and guidance for members of the public to our website about the range of support that is available.
Surviving the CoL crisis
Advice NI Chief Executive delivers sombre assessment of the pressures facing advisers and clients. Bob Stronge, Advice NI Chief Executive said:
“As the new Prime Minister talks about a ‘profound economic crisis’ facing the country it is worth remembering that independent advice services have been to the fore, working flat out, often in crisis mode, for the last decade and more, supporting people in need, often in crisis situations. This comes at a cost and is taking its toll on the well-being of advisers.
Ongoing welfare reform and changes to the social security system have impacted the finances of the poorest and most vulnerable in our community; and there is no end in sight as many thousands of people (with over 250,000 separate benefit awards) are set to be affected by the compulsory ‘Move to Universal Credit’ process over the next two years.
Advisers stepped up during the pandemic by continuing to deliver vital advice services albeit via digital and telephony channels. In addition, the advice network delivered the Covid-19 Community Helpline which was a key support channel for those seeking emergency food at the beginning of the pandemic, those seeking emergency fuel support and those seeking clarification on public health messages. The situation is much worse now as many of the Covid support and assistance schemes have come to an end.
Now, yet again, the advice sector is playing a key role in helping people through the current cost of living crisis. People on the lowest incomes, both in and out of work, find themselves disproportionately affected by rising inflation; crushing energy bills and faced with the stark choice of going cold or hungry to make ends meet. On a daily basis advisers are helping people in crisis: trying to maximise their income; checking social security entitlement; reviewing expenditure; renegotiating repayments; accessing local crisis support for food or other essential items from local community organisations or from energy company emergency funds. But this is not enough and the sector needs more support to meet the many challenges that people are facing.
In just the last four weeks we have seen greater demands placed on our services and we expect this to grow substantially through the coming months.
Surviving this crisis should now be the focus and to that end there are a number of things that need to happen:
Restoration of the NI Executive to agree a budget and bring forward support measures to deliver for the people who are in crisis right now. Wider political and ideological issues can and should be dealt with in tandem with the restoration of a functioning Executive;
The UK Government need to commit to social security benefit uprating in line with inflation for those out of work and in low paid work;
Proper, sustained support for the independent advice network is required to enable us to do what we do best and that is to continue to support the people that need it most.”
Advice NI statement: Advice Sector under pressure
Keep Your Promise: Protect the Most Vulnerable: Uprate Benefits by Inflation
People on the lowest incomes – both in and out of work – have endured a decade of austerity; with freezes and cuts to social security benefits and in-work support; hollowing out support, undermining resilience and ability to cope with adversity.
They now find themselves disproportionately affected by the current cost of living crisis; crushing energy bills and faced with the stark choice of going cold or hungry to make ends meet. The Consumer Price Index has now spiked to 10.1%, with inflation at over 14% for essential food items such as bread, cereals, meat and eggs.
Previous Chancellors have failed to recognise the plight of low income families, choosing to ignore the current crisis by sticking to the out-of-date benefit uprating formula which uses the September 2021 inflation figure of 3.1%. The current Prime Minister and Chancellor have failed to commit to benefit uprating in line with inflation for next year.
Little wonder the Government's own Office for Budget Responsibility states that the rise in inflation to a 40-year high this year will reduce real household disposable incomes leading to the biggest fall in living standards in any single financial year since records began.
The UK Government need to commit to social security benefit uprating in line with inflation for those out of work and in low paid work.
Locally, the Finance Minister has previously referenced the sum of £435 million ‘which cannot be allocated to help families, workers and businesses with the cost of living and to support public services’. Therefore, additional funding is available for households in Northern Ireland, but uncertainty remains about how this money could be used given the collapse of the NI Executive.
We need the restoration of the NI Executive right now to agree a budget and deliver for the people who are in crisis.
Advice NI is calling for the Governments both nationally and regionally to do more to help low income families whose budgets are already at breaking point. Benefit uprating in line with predicted inflation must be implemented without delay. Locally we have seen the vital impact that our ‘Evason’ welfare mitigations package can have in averting destitution; similar local Cost of Living measures and income maximisation schemes can help people survive the coming months. Increased poverty, hardship and destitution will be the consequences of a failure to act.
The government's Energy Price Guarantee was originally put in place for two years. Recent changes by the new Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, mean that this will now only be guaranteed for six months, just to cover this winter. In addition, the Chancellor also reversed some of his predecessor’s tax cuts, meaning the basic rate of income tax will remain at 20%.
Chancellor brings forward further Medium-Term Fiscal Plan measures
The Fuel Bank Foundation has launched its first centre in Derry. In the coming weeks and months, the charity is planning to open further centres across Northern Ireland.
Fuel Bank Foundation expands
The £100 payment to home heating oil customers will be in the form of a credit to electricity bills.
£100 Oil Payment
The Work and Pensions Committee called on the Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to give an assurance that social security benefits will be uprated in line with inflation in April 2023.
Work & Pensions committee writes to Chancellor re: Benefit uprating
Letter to 10 Downing Street by the Trussell Trust, Feeding Britain and the Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN)
Food bank network calls on political leaders to take action on widespread financial hardship and end the need for charitable food aid. The signatories also emphasise the enormous difficulty in coping with a level of demand that far outstrips supply.
Our joint letter to the Prime Minister
Over 100 organisations, led by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) and including Advice NI, have called on the new Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, to honour his commitment in May to uprating benefits in line with inflation. The letter to the PM lays out the consequences of failing to increase benefits in line with the Consumer Prices Index in stark terms:
“Previous decisions not to go ahead with the normal uprating of benefits have left our social security safety net threadbare. Current benefit rates leave households unable to afford even the essentials, with debt, homelessness and foodbank use all on the rise long before this crisis hit. Failing to uprate with inflation would amount to the biggest permanent real-terms cut to the basic rate of benefits ever made in a single year. Even if uprating goes ahead as normal, the support our social security system provides will still be at historic lows.”
JRF and over 100 organisations call on Rishi Sunak to honour his commitment to go ahead with the normal uprating of benefits by inflation
The WEF states: The global inflation crisis affects women and girls disproportionately. Inflation is higher for products aimed at women, who are also less likely to have salaries that keep pace with inflation.
WEF: Inflation hits women harder
The Consumer Council provide average petrol and diesel prices for 28 locations across Northern Ireland.
Fuel Price Checker
A new briefing from the House of Commons Library provides information on the rules and payment arrangements for Cost of Living Payments.
Cost of Living Payments: Overview and FAQs
Debated on Monday 24 October 2022
Baroness Sherlock: That this House regrets that the Universal Credit (Transitional Provisions) Amendment Regulations 2022 (SI 2022/752) do not take adequate steps to protect claimants from financial hardship removing (1) the requirement to evaluate the managed migration programme after the initial 10,000 claimants have been transferred, and (2) the obligation to involve Parliament in the decision to expand the rollout of the programme nationally.
Universal Credit Amendment Regulations 2022
Following the passing of the deadline for the re-formation of the Executive on 28 October, the Secretary of State, Chris Heaton-Harris, officially confirmed his commitment to calling an election for the Assembly within 12 weeks, as required by the terms of the New Decade, New Approach agreement. However, so far no date for the election has been set.
Secretary of State for NI, Rt Hon Chris Heaton-Harris MP - Statement
Over 70,000 people on benefits in N.I. are having money deducted from their welfare payments to cover unpaid debts.
A Stormont reply to a question posed by Belfast City Council stated that 73,803 benefit claimants had deductions taken from benefits (including UC) during August 2022, with the average deduction of £53.01.
Belfast Council made a request to DfC for an immediate suspension of government debt recovery for those in receipt of benefits and UC. The department has replied the suspension would not be possible without permission from the UK Treasury.
The council motion states it “Government departments are in some cases claiming back debts at higher rates than private creditors. Many people are unaware that they can receive debt reduction help.”
In a written reply to the Council, Leonora McLaughlin, the Director of Pensions, Disability, Benefit Security and Debt at DfC said: “… The Department is continuing to consider options to provide both immediate and medium to longer term interventions...
Customers in receipt of certain benefits may have deductions taken from their benefit and paid to a creditor under what is known as the Third Party Deductions Scheme. There are limits to the level of deductions from benefits which can be made under the scheme and I can assure you that third party deductions will only be made when it is considered to be in the best interest of the individual or their family.
The temporary suspension of debt recovery which was implemented in 2020 as part of the department’s Covid pandemic response, was in line with and supported by the Department for Work and Pensions. I can confirm that DWP are not considering a further pause in recovery activity at this time. To affect a unilateral suspension of recovery in NI would be a complex process relying upon manual action in respect of over 200,000 cases.
More significantly, suspension in NI would constitute a break in parity with DWP’s approach and would, therefore, require Treasury approval. Pursuing a temporary suspension in NI could also result in financial penalties to the Northern Ireland Executive’s Block Grant at a time of significant existing funding pressures. The financial cost of any divergence from parity, of this nature, would require Executive agreement.
However, the department has a level of existing discretion to reduce, defer and, in exceptional circumstances, to waive social security debt. As an alternative to suspending all debt recovery, the Department would encourage people who are experiencing difficulty with their repayments to contact Debt Management.”
Belfast Live article: Benefit Deductions
Queen's University Belfast is to spend about £8m making extra cost-of-living payments to students and most staff. Most of the university's 25,000 students will receive £150, although about 3,600 students will get a higher payment of £400 [those whose family household income is below £25k/annum].
Students will also not have to pay any fees to graduate - normally £47 - in 2022/23.
All library fines will also be waived and any student discipline fines halved.
CoL Support for Queens Students
In his role as Finance Minister, Conor Murphy MLA issued a formal written statement on 11 October about the budgetary position arising from increased energy costs and the lack of an Executive. Mr Murphy emphasised the difficulty in properly managing Departmental budgets in the absence of Executive oversight, and called on Department’s to take action to control spending to avoid an impact on future allocation of resources.
Written Ministerial Statement Budgetary Position
For over eight months, Northern Ireland has had ‘caretaker’ ministers but no proper government. After the 28 October deadline for forming an Executive, these ministers will no longer be in post and the law as it stands requires an election to be called. This paper examines what will happen after 28 October 2022.
Governing Without Ministers N.I.
The upper limit for claims, which can be heard in the small claims court, has increased. From 3 October 22, the maximum value of a claims which can be heard in the small claims court increases from £3,000 to £5,000. The Department of Justice has the power under Article 22 of the County Courts (Northern Ireland) Order 1980 to increase the jurisdiction of the small claims court, subject to consultation with the Lady Chief Justice. The increase was brought forward following consideration of responses to a public consultation on increasing the general civil jurisdiction of the county court. Legal provision for the increase was made by the County Courts (Financial Limits) Order (Northern Ireland) 2022 earlier this year.
The funding for direct payments is in addition to previous support packages announced by the Health Minister to help alleviate pressures on the wider social care sector.
Additional payments: Social Care
Direct Payment for Carers: Nidirect
Communities Minister Hargey has appointed the former Human Rights Commissioner, Les Allamby as Discretionary Support Commissioner. Mr Allamby will take up the role on November 1, succeeding the first Discretionary Support Commissioner, Walter Rader.
Minister Hargey said: “It is vital that people in crisis situations are supported and the appointment of a new Commissioner will ensure that continues to happen. Les has extensive knowledge and experience of the social security system which will aid him in his new role and help continue the excellent work carried out by his predecessor.”
The Discretionary Support Commissioner is an independent statutory office holder appointed by the Department for Communities. The Commissioner leads a small team of Inspectors and is responsible for the delivery of an independent review service for people who have made a claim to Discretionary Support and are unhappy with the decision from the Department for Communities.
Hargey appoints new Discretionary Support Commissioner
The first-ever financial education textbook: Your Money Matters (Northern Ireland Edition) has been designed for young people age 14 – 16 in N.I. Covers topics including spending and saving, borrowing, debt, insurance, student finance & future planning. Funded by Martin Lewis, with support from the Money & Pensions Service. Download your FREE copy:
Free Financial Education Textbook
Families can sign up to Tax-Free Childcare to help pay for holiday clubs, before and after-school clubs, childminders and nurseries, and other approved childcare schemes. It is available to families with children up to the age of 11, or 17 if their child has a disability.
The government will pay 20% of childcare costs by topping up the money paid into a Tax-Free Childcare account. This means for every £8 paid into the online account, families will automatically receive an additional £2 in government top-up.
Parents and carers could be eligible for Tax-Free Childcare if they:
- have a child or children aged up to 11. They stop being eligible on 1 September after their 11th birthday. If their child has a disability, they may get up to £4,000 a year until they are 17
- earn, or expect to earn, at least the National Minimum Wage or Living Wage for 16 hours a week, on average
- each earn under £100,000 per annum
- do not receive tax credits, Universal Credit or childcare vouchers
This research briefing, from the Commons Library, covers frequently asked questions about occupational and personal pensions:
Occupational and Personal Pensions Paper
The Minister for the Economy has launched a consultation on the proposal to change the entitlement criteria for Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay to make it a “day one” right by removing the eligibility requirement for 26 weeks of continuous employment, and to also introduce Miscarriage Leave and Pay as an amendment to the existing policy of Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay. This consultation document sets out the policy position of the department and seeks views on those proposals.
Consultation opened on 24 October 2022. Closing date 19 December 2022 at 17:00
Miscarriage Leave and Pay Consultation
The Independent Advisory Panel were tasked with completing a comprehensive review of existing welfare mitigation measures and to identify the need for a future welfare mitigation package. The report has now been published. Panel Chair Les Allamby states in the forward:
"As a society, we would never contemplate restricting health care or schooling to only the first two children yet currently do so through certain social security benefits. This cannot be right."
Les Allamby also said:
“The panel’s review outlines how this can be enhanced including: recognising the role of full-time carers, removing the two-child limit from Universal Credit and targeting support for low income families at key points in their children’s development. The recommendations are meaningful, credible, realistic and costed and are designed to provide assistance beyond the current income crisis. Many people were already struggling before inflation, fuel costs and interest rate hikes and will continue to do so without longer-term and targeted supports such as those outlined in the report.”
Recommendations include the following:
Independent advice services should be further supported given the importance and value of their work including improving the take up of social security benefits. In addition, any proposals should sit comfortably with other strategies being developed by DfC, including the anti poverty strategy:
"We…recommend mainstreaming the existing additional [welfare reform] funding as…there will be a continuing demand for independent advice for the foreseeable future."
Stormont should spend about £420m on new welfare mitigations over the next three years, including:
- Offsetting the two child limit in Universal Credit, Child Tax Credit and Housing Benefit only claims
- A Better Start Grant payment to low income families
- Additional support to carers via ‘carer recognition payments’ and increasing the earnings allowance before carers allowance is withdrawn
- A cost of work allowance including a job start grant, and retaining underlying entitlement to Universal Credit for six months when taking up employment
- Further support for winter fuel costs
The Department commissioned an independent panel to complete a review of Discretionary Support in June 2021 and they have produced a report making a number of recommendations for improvements to the scheme. The report was published, with response from department expected soon.
Discretionary Support Review
This Runnymede Trust report shows that:
Black and minority ethnic people are 2.5 times more likely to be in poverty than white people, with racial inequalities most pronounced in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Strengthen and expand social security measures. In the immediate term, a real-time uprating of social security in line with rising inflation would… protect against deepening poverty amongst minority ethnic communities…he government should permanently reintroduce and extend the £20 UC uplift
Scrapping no recourse to public funds. During the pandemic, up to 1.4 million people were excluded from financial support altogether with the vast majority (82%) affected being from a Black, Asian or minority ethnic background. The UK government should suspend the NRPF condition with immediate effect to prevent widespread destitution amongst those currently affected in the coming winter. At a minimum, the Home Office should publicly report on ethnicity data of those with NRPF.
CoL and Ethnicity Report
The GUardian article on Runnymede Report
What effect is the rising cost of living having on food banks and the people who use them?
Food Bank Demand Report
Annual Report on the Operation of the Welfare Supplementary Payments, Discretionary Support, Standards of Advice & Assistance and Sanctions
Previous years reports can also be found at the following link:
WSP, Standards of Advice and Sanctions Report
SSAC Occasional Paper 26: The Future of Working Age Contributory Benefits for Those Not in Paid Work
This report assesses the future of working age contributory benefits for those not in paid work. The report makes recommendations to the government where improvements can be made. Both Advice NI and the Law Centre contributed to stakeholder engagement in the report.
Working Age c. benefits for those not in paid work report
The Labour Market Report (LMR) is a monthly overview of key labour market statistics for NI. It includes figures from the Labour Force Survey (LFS), claimant count, redundancies counts, and HMRC PAYE statistics. NISRA said the latest HMRC payroll data showed that payrolled employee numbers are now 3.8% higher than in March 2020 pre-Covid and earnings are now 11.4% above pre-Covid level. However, this is the lowest increase of all 12 UK regions.
Labour Market Report Oct 22
The Hygiene Bank commissioned an independent study by YouGov to benchmark the incidence rate and the drivers of hygiene poverty. This report is the first comprehensive, national, mixed methodology research study into the issue of hygiene poverty in the UK.
Hygiene Poverty Report
Ending Violence Against Women and Girls: Experiences and Attitudes of 16 year olds in Northern Ireland
This report contains findings from the 2022 Young Life and Times Survey on 16 year olds’ experiences of, and attitudes to, violence against women and girls.
Ending Violence Women and Girls Report
The Northern Ireland Homelessness Bulletin is currently divided into three sections which are: Homeless Presenters; Homeless Acceptances; and Temporary Accommodation. The number of homeless continues to rise: From January to June of this year, 8,120 households presented as homeless, up from 7,404 the previous quarter. SDLP's Mark H Durkan said: “In the short-term, the Department for Communities needs to put measures in place including mortgage support and tenancy protections.”
N.I. Homelessness Bulletin
Belfast Telegraph article: Rising number of homeless
Jonathan Ashworth Labour
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, with reference to her Department's response on 11 February 2019 to the Work and Pensions Committee's 2018 report on Benefit Sanctions, for what reason her Department has not granted researchers at the University of Glasgow access to data on Universal Credit claims and sanctions histories for Scottish Universal Credit claimants to support their study into the health impacts of benefit sanctions; and if she will take steps to make that data available to those researchers in a timely manner.
Victoria Prentis, Conservative
The Department has taken the decision not to proceed with this data sharing project and has communicated this with the University.
Julian Sturdy, Conservative
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, if she will make it her policy to increase the rate of statutory maternity pay in the context of recent trends in the cost of living.
Victoria Prentis, Conservative
The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions has a statutory obligation to review Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP), benefits including Maternity Allowance, and pensions annually. The review will commence shortly, and her decisions will be announced to Parliament in the normal way later this year. Any new rates of benefits / pensions will become payable from April 2023.
From April 2022 the standard rate of SMP increased to £156.66, in line with the September 2021 CPI rate of 3.1%.
The Government has no plans to increase the standard rate of SMP outside of the annual review.
Thangam Debbonaire, Labour
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, if she will take steps to ensure that people on working tax credits receive their cost of living payment within the same timescales as those not receiving working tax credits.
Victoria Prentis, Conservative
People on working tax credits are often in receipt of other means-tested benefits.
HMRC issue payments to people on working tax credits after the other payments have been made, to allow time to ensure those who claim tax credits as well as a means tested benefit do not receive the payment twice. This decreases the risk of overpayments to tax credits customers.
Sir Stephen Timms, Labour
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, when her Department plans to publish further details on the procedure that will be used for Personal Independence Payment light touch reviews.
Claire Coutinho, Conservative
Personal Independence Payment is based on regular reviews to ensure individuals receive the right award reflecting any changes in their condition.
The principle of a 10 year light touch review for ongoing awards was introduced in 2013. The first claims of 10 year duration are now coming due for review. We are currently reviewing the design of the light touch review process following helpful insight provided to us by stakeholders, including by Parkinson’s UK and other organisations representing people with long-term conditions. Our aim is to have the minimum necessary contact with the claimant to check whether anything has changed, adjust the award if needed, and ensure we hold up to date information.
Ms Karen Buck, Labour
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, with reference to the decision of the Information Commissioner of 28 September 2022 on the publication of the Prime Minister’s Implementation Unit report in 2019 on the experiences of vulnerable people claiming Universal Credit, reference IC-145903-X8D9, if she will place copies of the (a) agendas and (b) minutes of the (i) Universal Credit Programme Delivery Executive and (ii) Move to UC Programme Delivery Executive Sub-group from the period since January 2018 in the House of Commons Library.
Victoria Prentis, Conservative
The Department is currently reviewing the Information Commissioner’s decision.
Rachael Maskell, Labour
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, if she will make it his policy to raise Universal Credit and all other benefits in line with Consumer Prices Index.
Victoria Prentis, Conservative
Following the publication of Average Weekly Earnings for May to July and the Consumer Prices Index for September by the Office for National Statistics, the Secretary of State will now commence her annual review of benefits including Universal Credit and State Pensions. Her decisions will be announced to Parliament shortly.
Jonathan Ashworth, Labour
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what assessment her Department has made of the potential impact on the (a) number and (b) rate of disabled people in poverty of increasing benefits in line with average earnings instead of inflation.
Claire Coutinho, Conservative
The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions has an annual statutory duty to review benefits and State Pensions rates. That review has commenced following the publication of the relevant indices by the Office for National Statistics.
These are CPI in year to September 2022 published on 19 October, and earnings growth in the year May-July 2022 published on 11 October. The Secretary of State’s decisions will be announced to Parliament shortly.
National Statistics on the number of disabled people in low income are published annually in the “Households Below Average Income” publication. Latest statistics, covering up until 2019/20 can be found here.
Matt Vickers, Conservative
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what recent assessment her Department has made of the potential merits of extending the eligibility criteria for Carer’s Allowance to a larger number of unpaid carers; and if she will make an assessment of the potential impact of unpaid care work on the (a) physical and (b) mental health of women.
Claire Coutinho, Conservative
The primary purpose of Carer’s Allowance is to provide a measure of financial support and recognition for people who give up the opportunity of full-time employment in order to provide regular and substantial care for a severely disabled person.
Entitlement to Carer's Allowance depends on certain conditions relating to the circumstances of both the disabled person and the carer being satisfied. The carer must provide a minimum of 35 hours care a week for the disabled person who must be receiving a qualifying disability benefit. The carer must be aged 16 or over; should not be in full-time education; or receiving earnings above £132 a week, net after the deduction of certain allowances. In 2020/21, 850,000 people were in receipt of the Allowance, an increase of nearly 300,000 since 2010/11.
In addition to Carer’s Allowance, carers on low incomes can claim income-related benefits, such as Universal Credit and Pension Credit. These benefits can be paid to carers at a higher rate than those without caring responsibilities through the carer element and the additional amount for carers respectively. Currently, the Universal Credit carer element is £168.81 per monthly assessment period, and the additional amount for carers in Pension Credit is £38.85 per week.
Since April 2010, carers who do not get Carer's Allowance have been able to apply for National Insurance carer's credits if they are caring for one or more disabled people for at least 20 hours a week. These are Class 3 credits which can help towards the conditions of entitlement to the new State Pension and Widowed Parent’s Allowance.
Carer’s Allowance is devolved to the Scottish Parliament and will, in due course be replaced by Scottish Government provision. Carer’s Allowance is a transferred matter in Northern Ireland.
The Government recognises that caring is not always easy or straightforward. There is a wide variety in caring circumstances, experiences and needs among unpaid carers. In England, the Care Act 2014 requires local authorities to deliver a wide range of sustainable high-quality care and support services, including support for unpaid carers and local authorities are required to undertake a Carer’s Assessment for any unpaid carer who appears to have a need for support and to meet their eligible needs on request from the carer. There is similar provision in Scotland and in Wales.
Jonathan Ashworth, Labour
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what recent assessment her Department has made of the adequacy of Carer's Allowance.
Claire Coutinho, Conservative
This Government recognises and values the vital contribution made by carers in supporting some of the most vulnerable in society. Unpaid carers can receive a range of support depending upon their circumstances, including from local authorities, the NHS and through the benefit system.
In England, the Care Act 2014 requires local authorities to deliver a wide range of sustainable high-quality care and support services, including support for unpaid carers, and local authorities are required to undertake a Carer’s Assessment for any unpaid carer who appears to have a need for support and to meet their eligible needs on request from the carer.
The primary purpose of Carer’s Allowance is to provide a measure of financial support and recognition for people who give up the opportunity of full-time employment in order to provide regular and substantial care for a severely disabled person. It is not a “carer’s wage” or designed to fully replace the income from work that an unpaid carer may have foregone. The current rate of Carer’s Allowance is £69.70 per week. This means that since 2010 it has increased from £53.90 to £69.70 a week, providing an additional £800 a year for carers through Carer’s Allowance.
In addition to Carer’s Allowance, carers on low incomes can claim income-related benefits, such as Universal Credit and Pension Credit. These benefits can be paid to carers at a higher rate than those without caring responsibilities through the carer element and the additional amount for carers respectively. Currently, the Universal Credit carer element is £168.81 per monthly assessment period, and the additional amount for carers in Pension Credit is £38.85 per week. Around 433,000 (May 22 data) carer households on Universal Credit can receive around an additional £2,000 a year through the Carer Element. The Government has chosen to focus extra support on those carers who need it most.
Jonathan Ashworth, Labour
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, how many eligible recipients have not received a disability cost of living payment as of 21 October 2022.
Alex Burghart, Conservative
We will periodically make payments to people who have later been found to be eligible and have not yet received a payment. The payments will continue to be made automatically in the same way the qualifying benefit or tax credit is paid.
The timetable for when Cost of Living Payments are made is published here: Cost of Living Payment
The Department for Work and Pensions has published management information on the total number of Disability Cost of Living Payments made. As of 30 September 2022, 6,000,000 Disability Cost of Living payments had been made.
The information which will be updated as new payments are made can be found here: Cost of Living Payment management information