Carers to be exempt from benefit cap rules

Carers to be exempt from benefit cap rulesOrganisations campaigning on behalf of carers are celebrating a “significant victory” following an announcement by the Government that the new benefit cap rules will be amended to exempt some carers.

The announcement by Lord Freud on behalf of the Department of Works and Pensions (DWP) follows a landmark case heard in the High Court* last year which ruled that the Government was unlawfully discriminating against disabled people and their carers by imposing a cap on benefits.

What are the benefit cap rules?

In the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s Budget in July 2015, George Osborne announced the Government would be reducing the cap on the amount of state benefits that can be claimed by one household.

For people living outside London the limit of the cap on benefits is intended to be reduced to £20,000 a year and for household’s in London it is going down to £23,000.

The cap for couples and lone parents previously was limited to £500 a week and single people to £350 per week. Under the new rules households will see a reduction of up to £3,000 per household in their annual benefits.

The benefit cap rules are due to be introduced from April 2016.

Who will be affected by the change in policy?

The decision this week by the Government to reign in the benefit cap rules means that any carers who receive Carer’s Allowance will not in the future suffer the proposed cuts in Housing Benefit and Universal Credit that are part of the Government’s policy for limiting in-work benefits from April 2016.

Hélena Herklots, Chief Executive of the charity Carers UK said

“By changing the law to exempt carers who receive Carer’s Allowance from the benefit cap, the Government has shown that it recognises both the valuable contribution that carers make to society and that the benefit cap unfairly penalises carers….”

What should you do if you want to be exempt?

At the moment it is not clear when the exemption for people receiving Carer’s Allowance will be applied. The benefit cap rules were introduced in April 2013 and the new lower cap comes in to effect from April 2016, so it is uncertain for now whether the exemption will be back dated.

Carers UK is suggesting carers who qualify should ask for a discretionary hardship payment to make up for any benefit already lost, or you could quote the High Court case shown below, which found that the Government was discriminating against disabled people and their carers. Use it to challenge any decision to cap your benefits.

* Hurley and Ors v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions [2015] EWHC3382 (Admin)

For more information on changes to the right to benefits for carers or if you want help to challenge a decision to cap your benfits contact us using the form below

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Remember to check the date of this article. If you are reading an older post the law may have changed in the meantime.

More about the author, Rosamund Evans

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