Carer benefit overpayments hits almost 5,000 people who are being ‘pursued’ to pay back

Overpayments of £9m have been referred to the Departments’ Debt Management branch since 2021

The plans include the launch of a national career structure for the adult social care workforce, known as the “care workforce pathway”, and more than £50 million in funding to support up to 37,000 people in direct adult social care jobs (Alamy/PA(
Carer’s Allowance is the main welfare benefit for those providing unpaid care for sick or disabled loved ones in Northern Ireland (Alamy Stock Photo)

Almost 5,000 unpaid carers in Northern Ireland are having overpayments of the Carer’s Allowance recovered from them, figures have shown.

Carers NI said £9m of overpayments have been referred to the Department for Communities (DfC) Debt Management branch since 2021.

There are over 48,000 recipients of the welfare payment in the north, drawing £81.90 per week

Claimants providing unpaid care for sick or disabled loved ones can earn an additional weekly income and maintain the benefit payment.

However, MLAs and campaigners have said the earning’s rules are too complicated and leave many people building up significant overpayment debts after inadvertently going over the weekly limit.

Carers NI said the average overpayment last year was over £1,600 – more than 30% of the value of Carer’s Allowance for a whole year.

Both Labour and the Conservatives have promised to cut debt as a percentage of national income
There are over 48,000 recipients of Carer’s Allowance in Northern Ireland and the benefit is worth £81.90 per week (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Craig Harrison, Public Affairs Manager at Carers NI, said :

“Nearly one in every 10 claimants of the benefit here are being pursued for overpayments which, we can confidentially guess in a lot of cases, were entirely inadvertent and driven by the complexity of the earnings rules.”

Mr Harrison questioned why the DfC failed to intervene earlier.

“Why isn’t there a system in place to flag overpayments right away, rather than weeks or months later? Carers are under so much pressure as they spend every day propping up the health system and they need a social security benefit that supports them, not one that so severely punishes innocent mistakes.”

Last week Stormont’s Communities Committee voted to write to Minister Gordon Lyons seeking answers.

A DfC spokesperson said, “Overpayments of Carers Allowance primarily occur when the Department is not updated on changes affecting a person’s entitlement. Where an overpayment occurs due to Departmental error or delay, then the Department will not pursue recovery.

“The Department for Communities is fully committed to assisting people who are repaying an overpayment debt and experiencing financial difficulties by offering tailored and affordable repayment plans; by signposting people to independent debt advice; and by waiving an overpayment debt in exceptional circumstances.

“People can access this support by contacting the Department’s Debt Management team on 0800 587 1322. Further details for Debt Management can be found at

“Entitlement rules for Carers Allowance can be found at Carer’s Allowance | nidirect.”