Carers forced to pay huge sums for honest mistakes


A recent investigation by The Guardian has found that thousands of carers are being forced to pay back huge sums for honest mistakes – sometimes worth pennies – that should’ve been spotted earlier by the Department for Work and Pensions.

Rethink Mental Illness was formed over 50 years ago by a group of carers. We know the value of caring better than most.

Despite the significant value of their work, carers of people living with mental illness often rely on social security to make ends meet. So the fines people are facing for human errors are a complete injustice.

We know Department for Work and Pensions processes can be complicated, so let’s talk through it.

Unpaid carers are entitled to a carer’s allowance of £81.90 a week – the smallest benefit of its kind – providing they care for someone for at least 35 hours a week.

They are allowed to work at the same time, but must not make more than £151 a week after tax and expenses.

People who make more than the £151 weekly limit, even as little as 1p more, must pay back the entire week’s carer’s allowance for the whole period in which they were in breach of the rules.

Imagine you are working as well as caring for someone. You get your maths wrong and accidentally made 1p more than the Department for Work and Pensions’ weekly limit for a year.

Rather than pay back the 52p over the limit that you have earned, you would be expected to pay back £81.90 x 52 weeks (£4,258.80).

The value of unpaid care in England and Wales is £162 billion.

We should not be penalising the people taking on this essential work.