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Last Updated: Friday, 2 March 2007, 16:36 GMT
Have Your Say: Carer's Allowance
A carer holding an elderly person's hands

The recent increase in the minimum wage has left some carers several hundred pounds out of pocket, Money Box has learnt.

Any carer who works for 16 hours a week at the new minimum wage rate of 5.35 now earns 85.60.

This is above the 84 earnings threshold for Carer's Allowance and means they are no longer entitled to the weekly payment of 46.95.

And this revelation comes in the week the government launched a 33 million initiative to help carers.

We asked for your comments, a selection of which are below.

To Pam in Sidcup - although your Carer's Allowance has been stopped due to you receiving a state pension you will still be registered as a carer and this increases your entitlement to Pension Credit and Council Tax Benefit. You have a higher entitlement to these benefits over a non-carer. As these two benefits are means-tested, depending on your income, it may be that you still don't qualify but it's worth checking out if you haven't already done so.

Why do we have to pay tax on Carer's Allowance? I think this is so unfair. I think it should be tax free and also substantially increased to reflect the work that carers do.
Mike, South Glos

It appears that this government can find billions of pounds to fund the Olympic games but not to care for those who have saved it billions in care costs. May I suggest that your correspondents express their anger on this and other issues via their MPs on theyworkforyou.com.
Trevor Jones, Bromsgrove

I was interested to hear that the lady whose Carer's Allowance was stopped is also claiming Family Tax Credit. I claim Tax Credits and the Carer's Allowance which I was also claiming was deducted from the Tax Credits. The Carer's Allowance stopped when my son was 12 but the 46 a week was then added onto my Tax Credits so my income remains the same. If you tell the Tax Credit unit that your circumstances have changed then the money should be restored by a different route.
Mrs Fisher, Leeds

To get this allowance, carers have to be available 35 hrs per week, saving the country billions
Joe Cooke (61), carer for 10 years
I was disappointed to hear this issue raised only in respect of those on the minimum wage. Carers who earn in excess of 84 in any week or pro rata for an equivalent paid period, will lose the whole allowance, net of any tax. I don't know of any other allowance which does not use a graduation process in such circumstances. To get this allowance, carers have to be available 35 hrs per week, saving the country billions. The allowance should be paid in recognition of this and continue after retirement or other pensions are received. In fact, it may encourage people to volunteer and produce savings as a result. The head of Carers UK lost an opportunity on your programme, to plead the case for carers in this poverty trap, choosing instead to concentrate only on the minimum wage anomaly. If governments want to assist the disabled and simultaneously recognise the immense contribution of their Carers, they should seriously consider removing this earnings limit.
Joe Cooke (61), carer for 10 years

I care for my daughter who has cerebral palsy and is now 16 years old. It's so difficult to find jobs where you can take time off when you have to in order to go to hospital appointments, and so on. These jobs are hard to find because all carers want them. Why aren't carers paid their allowance and encouraged to work hours whenever they can. I currently work 16 hours a week and gave up my Carer's Allowance. But I still feel we are penalised for trying to get back into some sort of decent employment rather than menial jobs. I still spend the same amount of hours looking after my daughter.
Gillian Haughton, New Malden, Surrey

I care for my father who is 89 and I am on the highest rate of Carer's Allowance but I was accepted at university and lost my allowance - hence I lost that 40. I still look after my father and as such I cannot go out to work. I don't think this is fair.
Frances Davies, Driffield

What happened to joined-up government? We seem to be losing the plot on so many fronts in this country. No wonder the exodus of the British is rising almost as fast as the bank profits.
DC, Sheffield

I too have been told that my Carer's Allowance will be taken away if I choose to claim Job Seeker's Allowance (contribution based) to which I am entitled (looking for a job of 16 hours). Quite a blow after making contributions all my life. How incompetent our civil servants are, or does the Treasury do it on purpose? So much for Gordon Brown's pledge to help carers!
Angela Poletti, Maidstone

Find out if the income threshold test is calculated after gift-aid donations; some benefits are calculated in this way (so the call centre told me anyway). Carers may find that they are fully eligible again after making a gift-aid donation of only a couple of pounds a week.
Sam Liddicott, Wakefield

We save this government millions and it couldn't care less
Sam Duff, Essex
I receive Carer's Allowance for looking after my four-year-old son. As I am unable to work and my husband's work is not as reliable as it could be, I applied for income support. I was told that as my husband is self-employed and doesn't pay the "correct stamp" I was not eligible - forget the fact that I worked solidly for 15 years before having my son. Now we are classed as a low income family, expected to survive on family tax credits and the measly Carer's Allowance when my husband is out of work. We save this government millions and it couldn't care less.
Sam Duff, Essex

Yet again the most vulnerable are being hammered by the government. I was lucky to be able to move to Canada seven years ago with my disabled husband so that our son could help out. We are so much better off here.
Kathleen, Canada

You must either assume this government department is incredibly stupid or calculatingly cruel and mean by manipulating dates to remove payments for six months each year. What would happen if the carer simply stopped when payments stopped? Does any authority have a duty of care to prevent hardship for the cared-for?
Robbie Clements, Menithwood

Let's not forget who created this problem. If the PM-to-be three months from now had not created such a stupid benefit system in the first place, this would not have happened.
Monkey, London

The complete tax/benefit system needs a complete overhaul, and soon
Dave Clarke, Gainsborough
Exactly the same thing used to happen in the 70s, when low earners were paid a "cost of living" top-up to their wages. I was in the forces at the time, on a low wage. I would get the top-up (untaxed), then lose it six months later when I got a pay rise (which was taxed). This went on for about six years. The complete tax/benefit system needs a complete overhaul, and soon.
Dave Clarke, Gainsborough

I care for my adult daughter who was entitled to free dental treatment, free prescriptions and help towards glasses because she held an HC2 certificate. When I claimed Carer's Allowance for looking after her, she no longer gets free prescriptions and has to pay towards her dental treatment, which means that I now have to pay for them from my Carers Allowance which leaves me worse off. I would just like to let others know about this in case they are in the same position as me.
Anon, Edinburgh

This situation is very depressing and I am sure I am not alone in feeling so angry with this injustice
Janet Baggaley, Nelson, Lancashire
I too am a carer for my man, and sadly the government seems to have lost touch with carers and the work we do. Yes, we do it "with love" but we still need an income to live on. We are trapped in poverty. I have had to give up a reasonably paid job, which allowed me to earn a decent pension and yes we do get our pension support, but at the minimum level. Now I am not allowed to earn a sufficient sum to top my pension up, for I will be penalised if I do. I deserve some quality of life. This situation is very depressing and I am sure I am not alone in feeling so angry with this injustice.
Janet Baggaley, Nelson, Lancashire

I am a disabled person, and I have been with my boyfriend for six years. We can't get married or live together due to legislation which would mean I would lose my ILF (Independent Living Fund). This would mean my boyfriend might have to stop working and look after me! We have worked so hard to have a normal relationship and even though sometimes he has to look after me we do not consider him to be "my carer", but where on earth do we go from here?
Denise Jones, Derby

I have cared for my daughter for the past 41 years. I have received Carer's Allowance. Now because I have reached pension age and receive retirement pension which is higher than CA I can no longer receive Carer's Allowance. I have saved the country so much money over 41 years and still do. Now I am also a pensioner and a carer they call CA an overlapping benefit and take it away. Caring gets much harder as one gets older and also the caree gets older. I am now caring for no financial reward whatsoever. Pensioners of my age who are non carers receive exactly the same financial help as pensioners who are also carers. This is not right or fair. Please help in our struggle to be equal with other carers.
Pam Robson, Sidcup

"Joined-up government" would make sure the rises in rates and allowances were synchronised in order to avoid unforeseen (but foreseeable) errors like these. This change affects people often operating at the margins of subsistence and more care needs to be taken with the carers. The solution seems relatively quick and simple but no doubt our illustrious leaders will make it anything but.
Michael Johnston, Reading

I have put a petition on the number 10 website regarding allowing me to earn more and still be able to claim Carer's Allowance. I want to be able to work while my son has carers and not lose the Carer's Allowance. Carers need to get out and about and use their experience.

Barbara Richardson, Rothwell, Northamptonshire

Be under no illusion. The government fully understood the implications of this when it increased the minimum wage. Like so many things this government has done it is designed to increase income to the Treasury, and reduce what is paid out. This in turn is simply to fund Gordon Brown's bankrupt policy of increasing the size of government. It has happened with income tax bands, inheritance tax, and so many other things.
Dave, London

It is a classic of why big government is unmanageable. The other problem is the general lack of responsibility taken in large organisations (businesses and government) which is the product of the people that work in them who are generally risk averse. I would wager no-one is technically responsible for this error and no-one will be sacked, although the misery it will cause is significant and certainly worthy of a sacking. So flat tax, simple benefits, macro economic and regulatory framework - good. Micro management, means testing, progressive tax and super-regulators - bad. I'm an Oxbridge graduate and I have no idea how my children's tax credit works or on which income number it is calculated.
James Gell, Brentwood, Essex

Benefits are a trap, a wicked, vicious circle
Lee, Stockton
This is typical of the kind of situation people on benefits find themselves in. Benefits are a trap, a wicked, vicious circle. Once on them you are embroiled in insane rules and it becomes impossible to get off them. It makes me apoplectic with rage when I hear people saying that people on benefits are scroungers .
Lee, Stockton

The comments we publish are not necessarily the views of the BBC but will reflect the balance of views we have received. It is helpful if contributors state if they work for any organisation relevant to an issue discussed. Readers should form their own views on whether messages published represent undeclared interests, or views prompted by a common source.

BBC Radio 4's Money Box was broadcast on Saturday, 24 February 2007 at 1204 GMT.

The programme was repeated on Sunday, 25 February at 2102 GMT.

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