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Work and Pensions written question – answered on 29th November 2011.

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Photo of Mark Menzies Mark Menzies Conservative, Fylde

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps he is taking to protect the livelihoods of carers.

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

The Government recognise and appreciate the important role of carers.

Financial support for carers is provided through the social security benefits system. The main benefit available to carers is carer's allowance, which provides a measure of support for people who are unable to undertake full-time paid employment because of their caring responsibilities. With the introduction of the Welfare Reform Bill, the Government announced that carer's allowance will continue to exist as a separate benefit providing an independent income for carers and recognition of the role they play. Carer's allowance is currently paid at £55.55 a week.

In addition to carer's allowance, carers on low incomes can claim income-related benefits, such as income support and pension credit. These benefits can be paid to carers at a higher rate through the carer premium or the equivalent additional amount for carers respectively, both currently worth up to £31.00 a week.

From 2013, we are introducing universal credit, an integrated benefit which will be payable whether or not people are in work. Above a disregard of earnings, the universal credit award will reduce gradually as earnings increase, due to the single earnings taper. The universal credit award will include a carer element which will continue for as long as the carer provides care for at least 35 hours per week for a severely disabled person. The carer element will continue to be included in the universal credit award when carer's allowance ceases because someone's earnings take them above the level for carer's allowance, which is currently £100.00 a week net of certain expenses.

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