HC Deb 13 November 2000 vol 356 cc644-6
12. Helen Jones (Warrington, North)

What steps he is taking to improve provision for carers. [136118]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Social Security (Mr. Hugh Bayley)

We recently announced a broad package of measures to improve financial support for carers. We intend to increase the carer premium in the income-related benefits by £10 on top of inflation, to increase the earnings limit in invalid care allowance from the current £50 to the lower earnings limit—currently £67—to allow ICA to continue for up to eight weeks after the death of the person being cared for, and to allow claims for ICA to be made by people aged 65 and over. We will be seeking to introduce these changes as soon as the legislative timetable permits.

Helen Jones

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that reply. Carers in my constituency will certainly be pleased that their valuable work is being recognised at last, but will he assure me and the House that carers will benefit from the increase in the carer premium and that it will not be clawed back in reduced housing benefit or council tax benefit?

Mr. Bayley

I can give my hon. Friend that assurance. I, too, have heard carers welcome the changes. They were warmly welcomed at the annual general meeting of the Carers National Association. The chief executive of the association assured me that it gave him "great pleasure" to welcome the announcement last week, which would boost carers benefits. The measures provide a sensible balance between targeting support on those most in need and giving those who are able to work the opportunity to continue to do so. The changes will benefit 300,000 carers at a cost of about £500 million over three years.