Headlines: September 8th, 2009

The value of the time given by millions of unpaid carers is not reflected in the quality of arrangements by the Department for Work and Pensions for their financial and other support, according to a group of MPs. The Public Accounts Committee says those looking after family or friends with disabilities or who are sick or disabled should not have to wade through official guidance which can range from the hard to understand to the downright incomprehensible.

The Committee today publishes a report which, based on of evidence from the Department for Work and Pensions, looks at the steps it has taken to improve the delivery of benefits to carers and the support they get to help them find jobs. There are an estimated six million unpaid carers.

The Committee Chair, Edward Leigh, said some of them wanted to combine their caring role with paid employment but that Jobcentre Plus had so far simply not been geared well towards providing that kind of help. Staff worked to a rigid template which did not allow them to respond to the complexity of carers’ needs and the regime did not allow personal advisers enough incentive to provide clients with part-time work.

“Last year the Department said that it would spend up to 38 million pounds on employment support for carers and indeed some two-thirds of this sum has been committed. But, at a time of rising unemployment, the worry is that the remaining third will be diverted away from improving services for well-deserving carers,” Mr. Leigh said.

Benefits for carers, he added, were unnecessarily complex and caused confusion. “The Department’s communications with customers can be lengthy and difficult to understand,” he added.