Around 1 million carers would receive an extra £10 a week under plans for a significant rise in the value of the carer’s allowance being announced by the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, on Tuesday.
Labour would fund the 17% increase, which would cost £538m by the time of the next election, by reversing the inheritance tax cut announced by George Osborne, the then chancellor, in 2015.
Announcing the latest in a series of policy announcements unveiled by the party ahead of next month’s local elections, Corbyn will cite figures from Carers UK saying that unpaid carers save taxpayers £132bn a year.
He will also argue that, with council care budgets being squeezed, unpaid carers are under more pressure than ever.
Speaking at a carers’ centre in Birmingham, he will say: “Britain’s social care crisis was made in Downing Street by cutting £4.6bn from council care budgets. Millions of unpaid carers have been forced to fill the gap and put under even greater pressure as a result.
“We believe these unsung, unpaid heroes not only deserve our praise and recognition – they deserve better financial support. That’s why Labour is convinced it’s both morally and economically right to give the carer’s allowance a boost of £10 a week.”
Currently around 800,000 people receive carer’s allowance, which is worth £62.70 a week and is paid to people spending at least 35 hours a week caring for someone, usually a disabled or elderly relative. Labour’s promise is to increase it to the same level as jobseeker’s allowance, currently £73.10.
By 2020/21 almost 1 million people are expected to be claiming carer’s allowance, at a cost to the taxpayer of £3.2bn at the current rate. Labour says the proposed increase would cost the exchequer an extra £538m, which could be met by using the £650m it would save in 2020/21 by reversing Osborne’s inheritance tax cut.
Corbyn will say this is only fair because the inheritance tax cut “will only benefit the wealthiest people in Britain”. And he will describe it as the first step Labour would take towards transforming social care for the 21st century.
Carer’s allowance is not means tested, but it is limited to people who are earning less than £116 a week. The take-up rate has in the past been estimated at 65% of those eligible, which is relatively low for a benefit.
Corbyn’s proposal is at least the eighth policy announcement from the party within the last fortnight. In the past the Labour leader has been accused of not having much to offer voters in the form of detailed policy, but this whirlwind of announcements goes way beyond what is usual in a local election campaign.
Other proposals have included: giving free school meals to all primary school pupils, funded by putting VAT on private schools; raising the minimum wage to £10 an hour by 2020 for all over 18s; keeping the triple-lock on pensions until 2025; making it harder for banks to close high street branches; cracking down on late payments by businesses; forcing firms getting government contracts to recognise unions and move towards a 20:1 highest/lowest pay ratio; and forcing large firms to publish their tax records in full.
A poll at the weekend suggested that some of these ideas are very popular. But there is no evidence yet that the policy roll-out has lifted Labour’s general standing in the polls. While an Opinium poll at the weekend had the Conservative lead down to just nine points, two others, ComRes and YouGov, had the Conservative lead rising to 21 points.
Responding to Labour’s announcement, a Conservative party spokesman said: “Carers make a huge contribution to society, so it’s only right that we do everything we can to support the selfless work they do. That’s why we already increased the rate of carer’s allowance, meaning an additional £450 a year for carers since 2010.”
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010