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Carers Allowance – in the dock

My dentist recently wrote to me advising I had not booked an appointment for some time. I then could not tell my mortgage provider who my building and contents insurer was, because I couldn’t find the policy document.

I am rather disorganised. Which is why I was attracted to Helen’s business proposal in the final programme of The Apprentice last Sunday. Her business would offer concierge /secretary type services for people – such as organising dentist appointments and storing information of who your insurer is.

filling in formsThis would be a dream for me, but can you imagine how helpful this would be for carers who can be responsible for all of the affairs of the person they are caring for, on top of everything else they are dealing with?

Carers are often lost amidst a myriad of social care, health and welfare systems as they try to figure out how best to get support for the person they care for. It is no surprise that something might slip through the net.

For some carers, what slipped was that some years after first receiving Carer’s Allowance, they did not tell the Carer’s Allowance Unit that they had begun to earn over £100 p/w which means they are no longer eligible for Carer’s Allowance.

In a recent discussion on our website forums, 16 carers advised that they were prosecuted by the Department of Work and Pensions for this error. Some of them had disclosed the income to the Tax Credits office but had not realised that they also had to tell the Carer’s Allowance Unit.

My dentist understood and found time for me; my mortgage provider laughed and said my insurance broker could tell me. The DWP took carers to court. In all of these cases, carers said they admitted their mistake and had offered or even started repayments yet DWP still pressed prosecution. 

The effects were carers lived for months in fear of jail and what would happen to the person they were caring for. And fearing the loss of their jobs working in schools or with vulnerable adults. Or wondering where they could find the money to pay for a lawyer. One carer is now so scared that she refuses to claim Carer’s Allowance even though she is eligible, in case she makes another mistake and goes through the nightmare again.

All carers who went to court were found not guilty, and others had their cases dropped by the DWP but only after many months of fear. However, two carers  are still being taken to court despite admitting their mistakes and starting repayments.  

What has happened to these carers over the past year is horrifying. The lack of understanding shown is astounding and deeply saddening. It’s a shame when your own Government shows a fraction of the understanding that dentists and banks show.

Take care,

Gordon

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July 22, 2011 - Posted by | Benefits, Carer's Allowance | , , ,

18 Comments »

  1. The problem is that the government believes its own propaganda.

    Comment by charles47 | July 23, 2011 | Reply

    • Charles

      My partner has been and is still being prosecuted by the DWP because she forgot possibly to notify carers allowance about her working. She started work back in 2006 and was interviewed in 2010. She just could not remember who she had contacted at the time. Quite clearly she had contacted the Benefits agency as all her other benefits had ceased but not the carers aspect. She was the primary carer for twin boys with disabilities who recieve the fullest rate of dla. the carers aspect had been paid since 1993 when they were born. She was advised to plead guilty in court which she did, believing that it would be done and dusted so we could sort out a payment plan and continue on with our lives, but no. The DWP are now pursuing this in the Crown Court with the proceeds of crime act. To say they have no symapathy or understanding for carers is an understament. Unfortunately she works for the DWP and it appears she is being used as a scapegoat by them. She has been suspended for the last three weeks pending a disciplinary case. she has already been told that the outcome will probably be dismissal.

      This has brought not just her but us as a family to our knees. I have been a stay at home father since I moved in in 2007 and whilst I was caring for one of her boys during this time the benfits agency are not concerned. so we cannot even offset some of the overpayment against what I as we are now aware could have claimed.

      As you all know caring for someone is highly stressful so imagine that doubled with twin boys , the separation from the boys alcholic and abusive father and a third younger son with his own problems and now the stress, anger and guilt that she feels especially as the national press treated her with their normal sympathetic tendancies and labelled her a benefits fiddler.

      It seems we have nowhere to turn too and have just got to hope that the Crown Court Judge sees this as a misuse of power by the DWP . I have written to our MP on three occasion but all I get is ” It has been passed on”. As yet no reply has been received from The welfare secretary.

      If anyone has any suggestions as to anybody or an organisation which may be able to help us please feel free to contact me.

      Comment by alistair pitt | September 27, 2011 | Reply

      • Hi Alistair
        Has your partner got legal advice? Do you have a hearing date for the Crown Court? We do not have the legal expertise to really help but do contact me directly through web@carers.org if you would like. Having read what has worked for other carers in the discussion forum that I highlighted above, it could be that some of that is useful.
        I’m really sorry to hear what’s happening to you and your partner Alistair.
        Gordon

        Comment by Gordon Conochie | September 30, 2011

  2. I have been a CARER for 25 years and what i have just read makes me PIG SICK. Not that long ago we were reading about MP,s fiddling there expenses,and um
    HOW MANY ACTUALLY GOT PROSECUTED?????????????????????????

    When i first became a CARER i had a 12 month fight to get my wife her DISABILITY BENEFITS and now the GOVERNMENT and the DWP are WAGING A WAR against CARERS , and to cap it all they call us SCROUNGERS CHEATS etc.etc.

    If that were not all i found out that years ago NOBODY INFORMED MY WIFE,S PARENTS THAT SHE WAS ENTITLED TO HALF THE GOING RATE OF WHAT WAS THEN “MOBILITY ALLOWANCE”. My wife lost out on thousands of pounds in benefits.

    THIS GOVERNMENT AND THIS COUNTRY ARE GUILTY OF WITHHOLDING AND DENYING HELP AND BENEFITS TO THOSE MOST IN NEED AND VULNERABLE.

    WHEN IS ANYTHING GOING TO BE DONE ABOUT THAT.

    TODAY IT IS THE LAW OF THE JUNGLE THE POWERFUL AND POLITICALLY CONNECTED – THE WEALTHY PRAYING ON THE MOST WEAK AND VULNERABLE IN OUR SOCIETY.

    WHAT ARE YOU AND ANY OF YOU WHO CLAIM TO REPRESENT AND SPEAK ON BEHALF OF THE DISABLED AND THERE CARERS GOING TO DO DO ABOUT THIS

    WELL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    ??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

    OR IS IT THE CASE THAT YOU DON,T CARE EITHER??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

    Comment by Taras Kurylak | July 23, 2011 | Reply

  3. thank you for this Gordon, it highlights the issues and the fear lived in.

    Comment by Kirsty Bwsmum Carmichael | July 23, 2011 | Reply

  4. Thank you for highlighting just how many additional demands are placed upon carers. It shouldn’t matter who or which government department carer’s disclose their earnings/benefits to – as long as they disclose them to one of them. Because there has been so much negative press attention given to `benefit fraud’ generally, carer’s are often judged before their case are even looked at properly. Very few people (other than other carers) really know what it is like to be in a long term highly demanding caring roll – and yes – mistakes do happen – particularly when tired.

    Comment by lesley | July 25, 2011 | Reply

  5. Gordon, you are a star, thank you for highlighting this nightmare that some of us carer’s are going through. Lets hope some sense is made of it all soon.

    Julie

    Comment by Julie | August 7, 2011 | Reply

  6. I was claiming carers allowance and I notified the carers allowance department as I was claiming housing and council tax benefit I told all departments that I had started work but I have just been found guilty of not notifying the department of work and pensions of change circumstances they said that I did not notify them, But I did notify them when I started work in 2008 but they still continued to pay me now they say it is my fault and they called me a liar I think that the DWP should notify people of their rights but they don’t and that is hard for you to try and prove them wrong. they can fabricate documents to their own ends. and try and make out that it is their policy, It does make you very hostile against the benefit departments and puts you off applying for something that you are entitled to.

    Comment by J Williams | October 28, 2011 | Reply

  7. I have just found this website as i have been researching this. I too am being accused of benefit fraud for not having time to read the letters. I am absolutely frightened to death of the outcome and the effect its having on my family. I have been caring for my cancer suffering husband for the past 3 years and now have to deal with this,,devastated is not the word.

    Comment by amanda | November 3, 2011 | Reply

  8. […] Read a previous post by Gordon to see why legal aid can be important for carers […]

    Pingback by Carer’s rights for free advice « CarersBlog | December 6, 2011 | Reply

  9. Hi all
    I’ve just heard that one of the carers who was taken to court was found not guilty. They simply said they were “happy again”.

    It’s brilliant news and hugely heartening to know there are people out there helping break down the doors that carers face – See my latest blog https://carersblog.wordpress.com/2012/01/24/the-thread-that-connects-carers-ex-carers-and-their-supporters/

    Comment by Gordon Conochie | January 24, 2012 | Reply

  10. Sould carers be paid minimum wage if you think yes then sign this petition. anyone who is a carer nows how differcult it can be and how little support we recive this needs to change we work the same amount of hours that a full time employee who by law has to be paid minimum wagw with is clos to £6. if you compare this to carers allowence to be eligible you need to look after someone for more then 35 hours a week for with you well recive £58 a week if you break that down it means we only get paid £1.65 an hour if you belive this to be wrong then sign this petition WE CAN MAKE A CHANGE

    http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/8812

    P.S copy it into your browser. We need 100,000 people to sign it before the 10/082012 if we reach the target the house of commons have to debate it SO PLZ SIGN IT !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Comment by andrew frost-bridges | June 9, 2012 | Reply

  11. We have just received the letter saying we owe £2.5k for an offence in April 2011 of over payment. It was making a short fall from pay in Jan but because they processed it in April it is a new tax year. Any advice would be greatly appreciated as I am sure we phoned them to tell them. We can get the phone records but obviously not the conversation itself but that will make it hard to prove. HELP!!!!

    Comment by Adam Murphy | December 4, 2012 | Reply

    • Hi Adam
      So sorry to hear that you have had this letter.I’m in a slightly different boat than yourself but I believe that a good chat with someone in welfare rights might be a good option for you before you agree to anything with the dwp. I’m not sure of your full story but from my experience the dwp do not back down
      Good luck x
      Amanda

      Comment by Amanda | December 12, 2012 | Reply

      • Good news. I managed to find internal DWP process documents. I ended up asking for a copy of all the process documents they use and to make sure that they were filled out within their stated timelines. I had to use about 10 PDF’s and websites to get the total picture of how they process and ask for proof that their own processes have been done in accordance with their governance procedures. I also explained that they had been informed and drilled into it. Rather than say we were not culpable I said if they feel there was a incidence of overpayment then the month in question should be the only guilty month and that they had agreed to evaluate over a quarter due to financial reporting being a 4-4-5 calendar of weeks. We got a letter this morning saying we owe £224.

        So make sure you fight it. Using internal process makes them proove that everything has to be done right and also, they can evaluate you over a quarter and not weekly or monthly as 1/3 months is 5 weeks in duration.

        Comment by Adam Murphy | February 14, 2013

  12. i am attending a tribunal this coming Thursday for overpayment. I was getting carers allowance after taking care of my Grandfather. He passed away in November of 2012. I rang all departments the following day informing all departmets about his death. Carers allowance was cancelled, Carers allowance ran on for the 8 week disregard. The over payment is because we have been told we should have informed the said department twice. Ringing them twice. Any help will be much appreciated.

    Comment by karl Williams | January 28, 2014 | Reply

    • Hi there,

      Firstly, we’re sorry to hear about the loss of your Grandfather; we imagine this must be a difficult time for your family. And we’re really sorry to hear about your situation; it sounds very stressful. Unfortunately, without any further information, it’s hard for us to be able to advise you further, at this point.

      The best thing we can suggest is for you to contact the Carer’s Allowance Unit directly, on 0845 608 4321 to ask them to explain the situation fully. If you’d then like to discuss this further with us, we can try to help you to work why you have been overpaid. You can email us at support@carers.org for a private response. And whilst it might not be of immediate use, it might be helpful to contact your local carers’ centre to see if they can give you any advice or support. You should be able to find your nearest centre here: http://www.carers.org/local-support

      We hope this is helpful and that you are able to resolve this issue soon.

      Online support team,
      Carers.org

      Comment by Online Support Team Carers Trust | January 28, 2014 | Reply

  13. It is awful how the DWP treat people . I have been overpaid for 14 years so they say the first figure was wrong plus CAB found that they had still got it wrong . What should I do as I still think there wrong .

    Comment by Dianne | September 8, 2014 | Reply


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