Work and Pensions Committee Press Notice

29 August 2008: For Immediate Release

Publication of Report: Valuing and supporting carers

"Committee calls for replacement of the current 'outdated' system of benefits for carers"

The Work and Pensions Select Committee today (29 August 2008) publishes its Fourth Report of Session 2007-08, entitled "Valuing and supporting carers" (HC 485).

Those who provide unpaid care for relatives and friends save the public purse an estimated £87 billion each year. The care they provide is not only of enormous value to those they care for, but also to society in general. However, most informal carers are of working age, and sustaining their ability to remain in work, or to return to work after a period of caring, is essential both to the Government's target of reaching an 80% employment rate and to employers who can not afford to lose their valued skills.

The Committee believes the current system of benefits for carers is outdated and recommends the introduction of two distinctive 'tiers' of support for carers, offering: (i) income replacement support for carers unable to work, or working only part-time; and (ii) compensation for the additional costs of caring for all carers in intensive caring roles.

The Report notes that many carers face financial pressures due to the additional costs of caring and from either reducing working hours, moving into lower paid work, or giving up paid work. Carers who give up work may also feel that their skills become rusty or out of date, and over time they may lose confidence and feel out of touch with the world of work. When caring ends, carers who have spent a long time in demanding caring roles need sensitive, tailored support to re-enter employment, supported by advisers who understand their circumstances and particular needs.

As part of its inquiry, the Committee visited independent and third sector Carers' Centres and saw that they can offer an effective 'first stop shop' for signposting carers to local organisations, services and benefits, and for providing ongoing support as carers' circumstances change. The Report recommends that the Government takes a more strategic approach to UK Carers' Centres, with the objective of there being a national network of such Centres.

Chairman of the Committee, Terry Rooney MP, commented:

"Caring matters deeply to individuals, families and society in general. Sustaining the ability of carers to provide the care and support they give to others is of critical importance. DWP must support adults who become carers during their working lives to combine work and care and enable those who wish to return to paid work when caring ends or changes to do so."

"The DWP must ensure that in caring for family members, young carers are not disadvantaged in accessing opportunities for education, training and employment.

"DWP needs to provide adequate financial support for those who provide care when of working age, either by compensating them for the extra costs of caring, or, if they need to give up work to care, through adequate income replacement and pension protection mechanisms."