Almost one million carers are dealing with an "unnecessarily complex" benefits system that "causes confusion" and does not encourage them to take on part-time work, according to a parliamentary committee.
Targets in JobCentres dissuade advisers to give carers enough support to find other jobs, the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said in a report.
Some 900,000 people who look after relatives and loved ones give an estimated £23 billion work of care every year. They receive benefits such as Carers Allowance and Employment Support worth £2 billion from the Department for Work and Pensions, but about 20% say they find claiming difficult.
The current system means carers' benefits can affect claims for the person being looked after, and the cross-party committee said carers seeking paid work do not get support tailored to their individual needs.
Only £25 million of the £38 million earmarked for employment support for carers last year has been spent so far, the committee said, and expressed concern that the remaining £13 million would be used in other areas of the JobCentre as the recession increases service demand.