Carers in the UK
Carers are often family members or friends who do what they can to help an older, disabled or seriously ill loved one.
There could be as many as 8.8 million adult carers in the UK providing this vital contribution to society, often without any support, according to data from Carers UK.
To put a figure on what these unsung heroes do, the value of unpaid care in the UK is estimated to be worth at least £132 billion a year.
Major charities including Age UK, Carers UK, and Macmillan have called on the Government to do more to recognise the contribution unpaid carers make and to provide better support.
If you’re a carer, here’s some information on the Carer's Allowance and other financial help available.
What is the Carer’s Allowance?
Carer’s Allowance is a benefit you can claim if you care for someone at least 35 hours a week.
You don’t have to be related to, or live with the person you provide care to, to get the financial help.
So, you could claim if they are a friend, neighbour or relative.
How much does Carer’s Allowance pay?
Carer’s Allowance is a taxable benefit that pays £66.15 a week for the 2019/20 tax year, with a one-off tax-free £10 payment around Christmas.
The allowance (£66.15 a week) is a set amount, so you won’t get more even if you look after more than one person.
Likewise, if more than one carer provides care to a person, only one can claim the allowance – although the other carer may be entitled to Carer’s Credit.
How to qualify for Carer’s Allowance
To qualify for Carer’s Allowance, you and the person you are looking after need to meet certain criteria.
The person you are caring for must get one of these benefits:
- Personal Independence Payment (daily living component);
- Disability Living Allowance (either the middle or highest care rate);
- Attendance Allowance;
- Constant Attendance Allowance – at or above the normal maximum rate with an Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit or the basic (full day) rate with a War Disablement Pension;
- Armed Forces Independence Payment.
You will need to tick all these boxes:
- You’re 16 or over;
- You spend at least 35 hours a week caring for someone;
- You’ve been in England, Scotland or Wales for at least two of the last three years (this doesn’t apply if you’re a refugee or have humanitarian protection status);
- You normally live in England, Scotland or Wales, or you live abroad as a member of the armed forces;
- You’re not in full-time education;
- You’re not studying for 21 hours a week or more;
- You earn no more than £123 a week after tax and some expenses;
- You’re not subject to immigration control.
You won’t be entitled to Carer’s Allowance if you already receive over a certain amount via specific benefits including the State Pension, Incapacity Benefit and Bereavement Benefit.
But you may be able to claim an ‘underlying entitlement’ to the Carer’s Allowance, so other means-tested benefits you are entitled to may increase.
National Insurance and Carer’s Credit
Those that are paid Carer’s Allowance will automatically receive National Insurance credits that will help build their State Pension entitlement.
Carers who don’t qualify for Carer’s Allowance may qualify for Carer’s Credit, that can help fill gaps in their National Insurance record.
To get this, you need to be aged 16 or over, under State Pension age and looking after one or more people for at least 20 hours a week.
The person you are looking after needs to receive a benefit linked to their illness or disability.
The impact of Carer’s Allowance on other benefits
Carer’s Allowance can impact other benefits both you and the person you care for receive.
When you claim Carer’s Allowance, it will impact the severe disability premium paid with benefits, the extra amount for severe disability paid with Pension Credit and Council Tax reductions of the person you care for.
As a carer, claiming Carer’s Allowance is likely to mean your other benefits may be reduced, but in total, your payments typically go up or stay the same.
Use a benefits calculator to work out if claiming Carer’s Allowance is a good idea for you and the person you look after.
Carer’s Allowance and holiday
You will still be entitled to Carer’s Allowance even if you take a break.
A break is considered when you spend at least 35 hours a week caring for the other person – but there are limits.
You will carry on getting Carer’s Allowance for up to 12 weeks if you go into hospital or up to four weeks if either of you go on holiday.
If you get a job, take a longer break or the person you are caring for dies, you will need to report a change in your circumstances.
How to make a claim
You will need:
- Your National Insurance number (if you have a partner, you’ll need theirs too);
- Bank or building society details (unless you get your State Pension);
- Employment details and latest payslip if you’re working;
- P45 if you’ve recently finished work;
- Course details if you’re studying;
- Details of any expenses such as pension contributions, cost of caring for your children or the person you’re caring for while you’re at work
You also need details of the person you care for, including their date of birth, address and National Insurance number (if they’re 16 or over) or Disability Living Allowance reference (if they’re under 16).
Claims can be backdated by up to three months.
Other benefits you could claim
Other schemes to help cut costs
Those with limited mobility may be able to get help from the Motability scheme, which can help provide a car, wheelchair or powered scooter.
If you care for a disabled person you may be able to use the Cinema Exhibitor’s Association Card, which gives you one free ticket when you take the person you’re caring for to the cinema.
There’s also the Disabled Persons Railcard, which gives the cardholder and a carer a third off most rail fares.
Many museums, leisure centres and National Trust sites may also offer free or discounted entry for carers, though these may not be explicitly advertised, so it’s worth asking before purchasing tickets.