Berkshire carers not claimed £9.4m in entitled benefits

Unpaid carers looking after the elderly or disabled in Berkshire have not claimed £9.4m of benefits they are entitled to, figures show.

The Carers UK charity said 3,026 eligible people in the county are not claiming the weekly £60 allowance.

Reading carer campaigner Carol Munt said she thought it could be because "a lot of people who care for others don't see themselves as carers".

The Berkshire Carers Service boss said the figures were "shocking".

'Daughter or carer?'

Carers UK said an FOI request to the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and census results showed the amount of unclaimed carers allowance in Berkshire.

The charity's chief executive, Helena Herklots, said it was important that unpaid carers were made aware of their entitlement as "those caring, unpaid, for loved ones save society vast sums" and "at huge personal cost".

Carer's Allowance is £59.75 a week to help look after someone with substantial caring needs.

Whether someone is eligible depends on age, salary and the amount of time a week spent as a carer.

Mrs Munt, a former nurse, said she spent five years caring for her mother who suffered from dementia.

She said: "If you are looking after your mother, do you see yourself as a daughter or a carer?"

She is campaigning for a young carers' discount card in Reading to be extended to older carers.

The head of the Berkshire Carers Service, Elspeth McPherson, said only a "fraction" of Berkshire's carers' population claimed the benefit, and agreed that it was because many did not recognise themselves as carers.

She said said the weekly benefit could help with any loss of earnings incurred by "extra household and transport costs".

A DWP spokesman said: "The greater simplicity of Universal Credit will also help substantially increase the take-up of currently unclaimed benefits, especially among those at the lower end of the income distribution.

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