Over 145,000 carers were asked to repay sums relating to earnings breaches last year, the DWP has said. 

Carer’s Allowance claimants have been found owing money to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) after surpassing the weekly earnings limit.

Carer’s Allowance is currently paid at a weekly rate of £81.90, allowing recipients to have a secondary income from a job. However, claimants cannot earn more than £151 a week, or they risk losing their entire benefit allowance.

The DWP can seek to recover overpayments, which may take months or even years to notice, leaving carers accumulating debts unknowingly.

Even exceeding the earnings limit by as little as £1 renders claimants ineligible for Carer’s Allowance, leading to steep repayment penalties.

Failures in the DWP’s IT systems

In the fiscal year 2022/23, an additional 26,700 carers were asked to repay sums due to earnings breaches, according to DWP figures. Among them, over 800 were repaying between £5,000 and £20,000, with 36 repaying more than £20,000, as reported by The Guardian.

Despite some carers not reporting changes in their circumstances, charities and MPs criticise the government for treating individuals in a draconian manner. Critics highlight failures in the DWP’s IT systems to promptly act on income breaches.

In a recent case, Vivienne Groom faced prosecution for failing to declare her minimum wage Co-op job to the DWP while caring for her mother and receiving Carer’s Allowance. In November 2023, a judge deemed her omission an “honest mistake,” as she claimed her social worker advised against informing the DWP about her job.

£16,000 inheritance was seized

Initially agreeing to a payment plan with the DWP, Groom was later informed that her £16,000 inheritance from her mother would be seized to cover overpayments. Expressing her dismay, Groom stated to the BBC, “If people look after their parents, they should be paid more money so they don’t have to go to work as well. I had to go to work. We had bills to pay.”

Groom was charged with benefit fraud offences and sentenced to a community order with unpaid work requirements. Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey criticised the treatment of carers, emphasising their vital role in society.

Disability Rights UK’s Welfare Rights and Policy Adviser, Ken Butler, highlighted the financial struggles of carers, calling for an end to the harsh earnings rules of Carer’s Allowance. Carers UK chief executive Helen Walker urged for a comprehensive reform of carers’ benefits to prevent the system from punishing individuals for misinterpreting complex rules.

The DWP emphasises that claimants must report changes in circumstances promptly, warning of potential court action or penalties for providing inaccurate information. The spokesperson reiterated the DWP’s commitment to fairness and assisting those struggling with repayment terms by negotiating sustainable plans.

As the debate over the treatment of carers continues, advocacy groups emphasise the need for reforms to ensure adequate support for unpaid carers navigating the complexities of the welfare system.





Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.