Across the UK there are 6.5 million people caring for a loved one who is older, seriously ill or disabled.
Carers Rights Day, organised by Carers UK, brings together more than 900 organisations across the UK every year to help carers in local communities to know their rights.
If you’re a carer there is financial support out there to help and here is our guide to getting them.
- Why is being a carer a financial struggle?
- What benefits are available to carers in the UK?
- Are you entitled to Carer’s Allowance?
- How can I apply for Carer’s Allowance?
- How to find emotional support as a carer?
Last year Carers UK reported that 10.6 million people will take on a new unpaid caring role for relatives and friends who are sick or disabled over the next five years and they will be left under-equipped to deal with the financial and emotional challenges of caring.
Many people who become carers have no choice but to cut down their hours at work or leave work permanently. Half of working age carers live in a household where no-one is in paid work and nearly half of people providing substantial levels of care are struggling to make ends meet.
When most people suddenly find themselves as carers there isn’t much advice and support readily available and previous studies have shown that £1.1 billion of Carer’s Allowance goes unclaimed every year and 42 per cent of carers have missed out on financial support as a result of not getting the right information.
The main benefit for carers in the UK is Carer’s Allowance. You might be eligible for Carer’s Allowance if you’re looking after someone for 35 hours a week or more.
Carer’s Allowance is not based on your National Insurance record. It’s also not a means tested benefit based on you and your partner’s income and savings. However, there is a cap on how much you can earn and still be entitled to claim Carer’s Allowance.
If you don’t qualify for Carer’s Allowance you might be able to claim Carer’s credits. Carer’s Credits are National Insurance credits towards your State Pension while you’re not making any contributions due to your caring role.
You might be eligible for Carer’s Credits if you spend more than 20 hours a week caring for someone, you don’t qualify for Carer’s Allowance and aren’t yet getting State Pension.
Your income, savings or investments won’t affect eligibility for Carer’s Credit.
Carer’s Allowance is £62.10 a week (2015/16) and is taxable.
Unfortunately not every carer is entitled to Carer’s Allowance. If you meet all the following conditions you might be entitled to Carer’s Allowance.
- You look after someone who gets a qualifying disability benefit.
- You look after that person for at least 35 hours a week.
- You are aged 16 or over.
- You are not in full-time education.
- You earn £110 a week (after deductions) or less.
- You satisfy UK presence and residence conditions.
Carers will only have to pay tax if they have other sources of taxable income.
Visit www.gov.uk to download a claim form.
If you live in Northern Ireland you can request a claim pack from the CA Unit – call 028 9090 6186. You can also ask for help to complete the claim form from a local advice agency.
Carers UK offer support and advice on both the financial and emotional aspects of being a carer. They provide Carer volunteers and online support groups to help you connect with other carers in the UK.
Not only do they offer a five days a week Carers UK advice line, they also run a warm and welcoming online community forum where you can share what’s on your mind, day and night, with people who understand.
Producer and writer Tiggy Walker knows only too well about the struggles of being a carer and being cared for.
In 2003, Radio 2 presenter Johnnie Walker was diagnosed with life threatening cancer. During his treatment and recovery Johnnie’s wife Tiggy became his full-time carer. 10 years later, in a cruel twist of fate, Tiggy was diagnosed with breast cancer and Johnnie became Tiggy’s carer.
She says, “when I became a carer my income suddenly went. Although the BBC supported Johnnie through his illness there was always an anxious feeling about how long that would last. With no income and we would have had to live off our savings.
“Carers in the UK often struggle with increased living costs. Families face higher bills such as home utilities, expensive taxis, hospital parking, occasionally home alterations and more. Over 40% of carer’s are cutting back on essentials like food and heating, 26% are borrowing from family and friends and 38% are using up their savings to get by.
“Another struggle I faced, as most carers face, is the feeling of loneliness and isolation. That’s why I am so passionate about spreading the great work Carers UK do because there forum and advice line offers both emotional support as well as financial advice.”
Tiggy’s 3 top tips for new carers
- Seek advice and support – It’s really important to seek financial help as soon as possible. Carers UK have a free newsletter which gives you up-to-date information on what you’re entitled to so you don’t miss out.
- Talk about your struggles – Make sure you have a support network around you so you don’t become lonely and isolated. Find a local support group and allow family and friends to help you. Be honest with them and ask for help when you need it.
- Look after yourself – It’s so easy to stop caring about your own needs when you become a carer because you are so busy worrying about someone else. It is so important to take time for yourself. Continue doing things that make you happy and take time outside your role as a carer by going for a walk, going to the gym, doing yoga or even booking in a massage.