If you care for another person, you may be entitled to benefits. Find out how you can get the support you may be entitled to.
Caring is a crucial but demanding job. If you’re looking after a friend or relative, providing practical, physical and emotional support to another person can be hugely rewarding – and exhausting. According to a 2017 survey of 3,800 carers by the charity Carers UK, 40% hadn’t had a day off for more than 12 months.
One in eight UK adults (around 6.5 million people) are carers – and that number is on the rise. Carers UK says that 6,000 people take on a caring responsibility every day and, by 2037, the estimated number of UK carers will increase to nine million. Although three million of the carers in the UK juggle caring with another job, and one in five are forced to give up work altogether.
Carers deserve to be compensated for the vital role they play: the service they provide is estimated to save the economy £132 billion each year. But many carers don’t realise they could be entitled to benefits. Some think they can only claim if they’re related to the person they care for, or that carers allowance is only paid if they care full-time.
For some people, the stigma attached to claiming benefits may play a part, or perhaps they don’t claim because they think they might not qualify – but there’s no harm in applying, even if you don’t turn out to be eligible.
Some people aren’t sure if they actually count as a carer. Every carer is unique: there’s no set job description because every situation is different. They are all ages, backgrounds and can be husbands, wives, partners, children, parents, siblings, friends, or any other relation.
According to the Carers Trust, a carer is: “anyone who cares, unpaid, for a friend or family member, who due to illness, disability, a mental health problem or an addiction, cannot cope without their support”.
While the NHS describes a carer as, “someone who helps another person, usually a relative or friend, in their day-to-day life. This is not the same as someone who provides care professionally or through a voluntary organisation.”
Caring is rewarding but it can impact on your health, wellbeing, education, career and, if it stops you getting out and about, it can be isolating. It can also have a big financial impact, particularly if it forces you to stop work, or if the equipment and supplies you need to be a carer are expensive.
If you’re unsure about your status as a carer, or what help and support is out there, a Carer’s Assessment is a chance to discuss your needs and situation with your local council. Although it might sound formal, the assessment is not an evaluation of the way you care: it’s an opportunity to talk to your local social care or social work department about the way caring is affecting your life and wellbeing.
Assessments can be conducted in person or over the phone. They usually cover how long you’ve been a carer, the kind of care you provide, how caring is affecting you physically and emotionally, and what kind of help you might need to keep caring and get the most out of other aspects of your life, such as work, relationships or education.
After the assessment, the social care department decides if you’re eligible for any support services and you’ll be involved in creating a care plan. Even if you don’t qualify for support from the social care team, you should expect to be given information and advice on local services designed to help you manage your situation.
The main financial support for carers is the Carer's Allowance. You could be eligible for Carer’s Allowance (£62.70 a week in 2017/18) if you spend 35 hours a week or more caring for someone and you:
The person you’re caring for must also be getting a benefit, such as the Disability Living Allowance, because of their illness or disability. You don’t have to be related to, or even live with, the person you care for – but it’s worth noting that you won’t be paid extra if you care for more than one person.
Carer’s Allowance is usually either paid into your bank account weekly (in advance) or every four weeks. The allowance is counted as taxable income, which is important if you’re getting tax credits or other means-tested benefits. You should always talk to the person you’re caring for before you make a claim in case it affects any of the benefits they receive, and to make sure no one else is already claiming the allowance for looking after them.
You can claim for Carer’s Allowance online, on the phone or by post. To find out more visit the government website.
If you’re caring for someone for at least 20 hours a week, and missing your National Insurance contributions, you might be eligible for Carer’s Credit. Carer’s Credit helps with gaps in your N.I. record (which your State Pension is based on).
If you’re over 16, aren’t yet getting a State Pension and don’t qualify for Carer’s Allowance, you can claim for this benefit (you’ll need to make sure the person you’re caring for receives a benefit because of their illness or disability).
If you meet the criteria for Carer’s Allowance (whether or not it’s actually being paid – other means-tested benefits may affect your payments) you may qualify for some extra money, or a Carer Premium.
If you’re a carer, but you already get Income Support, Universal Credit, Housing Benefit, Council Tax Support, Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance or Income-related Employment and Support Allowance, you may be entitled to additional payments.
If you want to learn more about your rights as a carer, check out the Care Act 2014, which came into force in April 2015. The act details carers’ legal rights to assessment and gives local authorities a responsibility to assess a carer’s need for support if they require help.
You can go straight to the Department for Work & Pensions to find out about benefits, and the NHS and the Money Advice Service offer some financial guidance for carers. Citizens Advice also publishes up-to-date information for sick or disabled people and their carers.
If you’d just like some support, advice or to connect with other carers, try Carers UK, which has an online forum and plenty of expert advice for carers, and the Carers Trust, which has a section for younger carers and lots of advice on local services.
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