Pen­sion pain

Gov­ern­ment scheme to boost car­ers’ re­tire­ment in­come is fail­ing, re­ports Sam Mead­ows

The Sunday Telegraph - Money & Business - - Money -

More than 140,000 car­ers could be miss­ing out on hun­dreds of pounds a year in re­tire­ment as they have failed to take ad­van­tage of a gov­ern­ment scheme to pro­tect their state pen­sion.

Those who spend more than 35 hours a week car­ing for some­one, even a rel­a­tive, are au­to­mat­i­cally given Na­tional In­sur­ance cred­its that pre­serve their right to a full state pen­sion. Those who spend fewer hours as a carer must ap­ply for cred­its, and it ap­pears many are miss­ing out.

When the sys­tem was in­tro­duced in 2010 the De­part­ment for Work and Pen­sions es­ti­mated 160,000 car­ers could ben­e­fit, but fig­ures re­leased un­der the Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act show that just 3,524 peo­ple made a suc­cess­ful claim in 2016-17.

A spokesman for the DWP pointed out that car­ers did not need to reap­ply for the credit and that more than 13,700 peo­ple were cur­rently tak­ing ad­van­tage. This still falls well short of the es­ti­mated num­ber of ben­e­fi­cia­ries.

The credit could be worth £237 a year, or £4,700 over 20 years.

Steve Webb, a di­rec­tor at mu­tual in­surer Royal Lon­don, said the onus should not be on the car­ers, and the Gov­ern­ment should do more to make sure they know their rights.

“The credit is un­doubt­edly a good thing and it’s been in­tro­duced with the best of in­ten­tions, but peo­ple just don’t know about it,” he said. “The Gov­ern­ment al­ready writes to dis­abled peo­ple each year to lay out their ben­e­fit en­ti­tle­ment. It wouldn’t take much to in­clude a leaflet about carer’s credit for them to pass to their carer.”

He added: “Many of th­ese peo­ple don’t self-iden­tify as car­ers, es­pe­cially when it’s fam­ily. They just think, ‘I’m ob­vi­ously not go­ing to get paid for this’. But you are al­ready sac­ri­fic­ing earn­ings by do­ing it. This isn’t char­ity, it’s just mak­ing sure you aren’t pe­nalised.”

The DWP said: “Over the past eight years the num­ber of ap­pli­ca­tions for carer’s credit has con­sis­tently in­creased year on year.

“It is vi­tal that car­ers get the sup­port they need, which is why we work closely with dis­abil­ity and carer char­i­ties and groups, and the me­dia, and pro­vide in­for­ma­tion to raise aware­ness of this.”

To be el­i­gi­ble the in­di­vid­ual must spend more than 20 hours a week car­ing for a dis­abled per­son, and not be re­ceiv­ing carer’s al­lowance. The re­cip­i­ent of care must be re­ceiv­ing a qual­i­fy­ing ben­e­fit. More in­for­ma­tion can be found at gov.uk/car­ers-credit.

Carer’s credit was in­tro­duced by Labour MP Yvette Cooper while sec­re­tary of state for work and pen­sions in 2010

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