UK Government Dementia Adviser Resigns Over Treatment of Unpaid Carers

Dementia adviser resigns, criticizing UK government's harsh treatment of unpaid carers ordered to repay benefits even for minor earnings oversights.

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UK Government Dementia Adviser Resigns Over Treatment of Unpaid Carers

UK Government Dementia Adviser Resigns Over Treatment of Unpaid Carers

Johnny Timpson, a key dementia adviser to the UK government, has resigned from his role, criticizing the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) for its treatment of unpaid carers. Timpson said he wanted to "take a stand" after it emerged that thousands of carers were being ordered to repay benefits, with some facing fines of up to £20,000, even if they had accidentally exceeded the £151 weekly earnings limit by just 1p.

The DWP has been accused of failing to follow its own policies on protecting vulnerable benefit claimants. An estimated 34,500 people were overpaid last year, with more than 1,000 ordered to pay back sums between £5,000 and £20,000. Carers who accidentally exceeded the £151 weekly earnings limit even by 1p for receiving Carer's Allowance have been told to pay back the whole week's benefit.

Why this matters: The resignation of a high-profile government adviser highlights the growing pressure on the UK government to address the treatment of unpaid carers. The situation has raised concerns about the fairness and effectiveness of the current welfare system in supporting those who provide vital care for loved ones.

Timpson criticized the DWP's approach as being in breach of its own policy towards protecting vulnerable benefit claimants, and called for the DWP to be potentially disbanded as part of a wider reform of the welfare sector. He said the overly complex benefits system and the DWP's failure to identify vulnerable customers and intervene to prevent harm were at the root of the problem.

Former Conservative work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith has called for the DWP to pause the repayment claims process and to "very carefully" scrutinize the situation. The Liberal Democrat leader, Ed Davey, who has been a carer for most of his life, said Timpson's resignation showed the "scandalous" treatment of unpaid carers, and urged the government to fix the "flawed and failing Carer's Allowance system" as a priority.

The DWP has defended its actions, stating that claimants have a responsibility to inform the department of any changes in their circumstances that could impact their award. A DWP spokesperson said: "Carers play a vital role in society, and we understand the pressures they face which is why we increased Carer's Allowance by 10.1% last month. Safeguards are in place to ensure repayments are affordable and we have recently reviewed our processes to ensure that carers are treated fairly." The department acknowledged that overpayments related to earnings represent a small percentage of the £3.3 billion spent supporting carers.

Key Takeaways

  • Dementia adviser Johnny Timpson resigns, criticizing DWP's treatment of unpaid carers.
  • DWP ordered 34,500 people to repay benefits, with some facing fines up to £20,000.
  • Carers who exceeded £151 weekly earnings limit by 1p were told to repay whole week's benefit.
  • Timpson calls for DWP reform, citing failure to protect vulnerable benefit claimants.
  • DWP defends actions, says safeguards in place, but acknowledges overpayments related to earnings.