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