Carers are being bullied by the government, a committee of MPs says. The Work and Pensions Select Committee says ministers are harassing people who have made honest mistakes when receiving carer's allowance.
Long-standing problems within the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) led to a failure to spot overpayments. The government says while it has a duty to the taxpayer to recover the money, "safeguards are in place to protect claimants from financial hardship".
The MPs have urged the government to review, on a case by case basis, whether overpayments are worth pursuing, given the Department of Work and Pensions' culpability and the cost of recouping them.
For years, the Department for Work and Pensions ignored a whistleblower's concerns they were failing to spot overpayments to thousands of carers as they had cut the number of staff working on the benefit.
HM Revenue & Customs was providing earnings data to the department that should have highlighted the overpayments, while the confusing nature of the benefit meant many people were unaware they were no longer eligible.
In April, the National Audit Office said about two-thirds of carers with debts for earnings-related overpayments over £2,500 would have had their overpayments stopped earlier if the DWP had put in place sufficient staff.
Carer's benefit is paid to people who provide at least 35 hours a week of care. The government says 850,000 people receive the allowance, with millions of payments made each year. The National Audit Office found the DWP was aiming to recoup overpayments from 80,000 people, worth about £150m.