Unpaid carers "need and deserve better" say campaigners who have called for the whole system to be changed.

Millions of people provide unpaid care to family, friends and loved ones across the country.

Those providing care for more than 35 hours and earning less than £151 a week are eligible for a carer's allowance – a weekly payment of £81.90.

Figures from the Department for Work and Pensions show there were 5,791 people receiving the benefit in Bolton as of last summer, the most recent available figures.

A further 2,210 people were judged to be eligible for carer's allowance by the Department for Work and Pensions but were not claiming it – potentially due to receiving other benefits which disqualify them from it or receiving a top-up to other benefits instead.

The Carers UK charity has called for the benefit to be reformed, with the earnings limit set at 21 hours of minimum wage work a week – currently £240.24 for those age 21 or over.

Tamara Sandoul, head of policy and public affairs said: "Millions of unpaid cares who are eligible do not apply for Carer’s Allowance. As well as it being a relatively low benefit, as we have seen from various news reports, the risk of running up overpayments may not be worth it."

Census data from 2021 suggests there are 5.7 million unpaid carers across the UK, and 2.1 million people provide at least 35 hours of care a week in England and Wales.

Carer's UK is calling for "wide ranging" reform of the benefit, and wants to see a new, non-means tested payment for carers of state pension age.

Unpaid care is predominantly carried out by women – 71 per cent of recipients of carer's allowance in Bolton were female.

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Cllr Andy Morgan, Conservative group spokesman for Adult Social Care, Health, and Wellbeing in Bolton said: “When I was Executive Member for Adults Services, I ensured that as a council we carried out a full review of the Carers Strategy. 

“This strategy demonstrated our joint commitment in working together to ensure that all carers have access to the right information and support at the right time, and in the right way.

“I absolutely agree with The Carers UK charity.  Unpaid carers should not be seen as a cheap way of providing care in the community.

“They should be recognised for what they do, and the benefit should be reformed, and payment levels increased.

“Every unpaid carer in Bolton makes an invaluable contribution not only to the person they are caring for but also to their local community and Bolton as a whole and they should be rewarded and supported appropriately.”

Across England, nearly 1 million people were claiming the benefit as of last summer, with a further 400,000 deemed eligible by the DWP.

Across the North West, 133,000 were receiving the benefit last summer, with a further 56,000 eligible for it.

A spokesperson for the DWP said: "We recognise the importance of carers, who play a vital role in our communities, and we keep all of our benefits under constant review.

"From April, Carer’s Allowance increased to £81.90 a week, giving carers around an extra £1,500 a year compared to 2010.

"Carers in low income households may also be eligible for additional financial support such as Universal Credit, or Pension Credit.”

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