Unpaid carers being forced to repay £250m to DWP in allowance overpayments

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Unpaid carers must repay more than £250 million after many were unknowingly overpaid their allowance, new figures show.

The government is seeking to recover money from more than 134,000 carers.

Carer’s Allowance must be repaid in full if a strict earnings limit is exceeded by even a few pence.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said it was “progressing an enhanced notification strategy” to alert carers to overpayments.

Wren Seaward, a full-time carer for her husband John who relies on a wheelchair because of severe osteoarthritis, must pay back £245 a month after unwittingly receiving £5,000 in overpayments.

This has brought a “considerable financial strain” and “makes many of the things we could do in the home to make John’s life easier… very difficult to access”, she told the BBC.

The couple admit missing DWP letters reminding them to report any changes in circumstances, but say they became overwhelmed with correspondence following the death of their daughter in a car crash.

Unpaid carers who provide care for someone for more than 35 hours a week are entitled to receive the Carer’s Allowance.

However they are only eligible if they earn less than £151 per week after tax. If this is exceeded following a change in circumstances – such as working overtime or a modest pay rise – they are no longer eligible and have to repay any allowance received in full.

The latest figures were released by the DWP after a parliamentary question from Labour MP Sir Stephen Timms.

The datashows more than twice as many women are in debt because of overpayments, roughly in line with the proportion that receive Carer’s Allowance.

The DWP has previously said that “claimants have a responsibility to inform DWP of any changes in their circumstances that could impact their award, and it is right that we recover taxpayers’ money when this has not occurred”.

But carers have told the BBC they were unaware they had exceeded the threshold until being informed years later, by which time the sums had run into the thousands.

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