Case Of Asian Network DJ Sentenced For Carer’s Allowance Fraud Raises Bigger Questions
The case of Lubna Qazi has got me thinking. Mrs Qazi, 53, admitted falsely claiming Carer’s Allowance of up to £18,000 while working as a DJ for BBC Asian Network in Birmingham.
She began claiming the benefit in 2002 after her husband had a stroke. She started work at BBC Asian Network in early 2003- but for 7 years, she did not declare her job as a DJ to the DWP. She was earning more than the £95 a week allowed for people claiming Carer’s Allowance.
I am usually the last person to agree with benefit fraud. If Mrs Qazi had never been a carer and had claimed Carer’s Allowance, or if she had continued to claim the benefit after her husband had been cured of his health problems, I would have been the first person to strongly dislike her for this.
However, Mrs Qazi was genuinely her husband’s sole carer during the 7 years- a fact recognised by Birmingham Crown Court and the reason why she received a conditional discharge rather than a three month jail term. She has also been ordered to pay £100 legal costs and to return over £17,000 to the DWP.
This is a large sum of money, and there is no doubt that Mrs Qazi should have notified the DWP of her change of circumstances long ago. But she has not worked for the BBC since informing them of the case against her early this year.
As a disabled person whose parent carer claims Carer’s Allowance, I know others in the same situation. Our parents all had talents and careers before becoming our carers. They did not choose their caring roles- any more than we chose our disabilities.
Carers are all people, too. Many of them have intelligence and skills that can and should allow them to earn far more than £95 a week. By caring for us in our own homes, they are saving our hospitals and residential care homes a lot of money, time and trouble-as well as giving us a good quality of life- a life spent with family and friends in a familiar environment. They rarely complain, yet they are allowed to earn just under £150 a week for all their hard work- and that includes the benefit. Most of them rarely get a break.
Here’s a thought for those who think I am starting to rant- if a person working the 9 to 5 earned under £150 a week, would they be coming close to earning the minimum wage? I don’t think so. Well, many carers work very hard 24/7. For their caring jobs alone, they deserve to earn far more than the minimum wage.
I realise that this is wishful thinking, but personally, I would like nothing more than to see either Carer’s Allowance, the £95 weekly earnings limit, or both of these raised to at least minimum wage level by the Government.
For once, I am pleased to see someone not being sent to prison for benefit fraud.
Cross posted here.