Who Cares for the Carers?

  • Published 20.02.2024

Help Available for Unpaid Carers in the UK

by Nick Daws

Help for unpaid carers

Caring for a loved one is a responsibility that falls to many of us (me included) at some point in our lives.

Millions of people in the UK take on this role, providing essential support to family members or friends who are elderly, disabled or facing health challenges.

Being a carer can be rewarding, but it can also place significant physical, emotional and financial strain on the individuals who do it..

If you’re becoming a full-time carer for a family member, there is help available. The government, local councils and various voluntary organisations recognise the vital contribution of unpaid carers and provide a range of financial and practical support to assist them.

Financial Support

First and foremost, unpaid carers may be eligible for Carer’s Allowance, a financial benefit provided by the state to those who spend at least 35 hours a week caring for someone. It is worth up to £76.75 a week (for the year 2023/24).

To qualify, the person being cared for must receive a disability benefit. The full list of qualifying benefits is shown below:

  • Daily living component of Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
  • Attendance Allowance
  • Middle/higher rate of the care component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
  • Constant Attendance Allowance at the normal maximum rate paid with the Industrial Injuries or War Pensions schemes
  • Armed Forces Independence Payment
  • Middle or higher rate of the care component of Child Disability Payment (Scotland)
  • Daily living component of Adult Disability Payment (Scotland).

In addition, you will only be eligible to receive Carer’s Allowance if you don’t earn more than £139 per week (after deductions including tax, national insurance and certain expenses). Unfortunately the state pension is not excluded – so if you receive this, it is unlikely you will qualify for Carer’s Allowance.

  • It may still be worth applying, though, as even if you earn too much to get Carer’s Allowance, you should still receive a ‘notification of underlying entitlement’, which may allow you to claim other discounts and benefits.

You can apply for Carer’s Allowance on the government website or you can call the Carer’s Allowance phone number free of charge on 0800 731 0297.

As well as Carer’s Allowance, unpaid carers may be eligible for other benefits such as Universal Credit, Income Support or Pension Credit. This depends on various factors, including age, income and personal circumstances. If unsure, your local CItizens Advice office should be able to assist you.

There are also charitable trusts that provide financial support to carers and those they care for. Some are only for people who have worked in certain occupations (e.g. mining) or live in a particular geographical area, but others have a broader remit. There are various free online grant-search platforms, including Turn2Us and Lightning Reach.

Practical Support

Carers have the right to request a Carer’s Assessment from their local authority social services department to determine their support needs.

This assessment will consider the physical, mental and emotional impact of care-giving, with the goal of providing appropriate support to maintain the carer’s health and well-being. That may also include cash payments (e.g. Birmingham City Council offers modest ‘well-being payments’ to eligible carers to make their lives a little easier).

Respite Care

Respite care services offer short-term relief for unpaid carers, giving them a break from their care-giving duties. This might involve the person who is receiving care temporarily going into a care home, or paid carers coming in during the day and/or night while the carer takes a much-needed break.

Local authorities and charitable organisations often provide respite care options to ensure carers have the chance to rest and recharge. Your local social services or social work department should be able to advise you about the options available.

Support Groups

In most areas there are support groups for carers, where they can connect with others facing similar challenges. Groups provide a platform for sharing experiences, tips and emotional support. You can find out what’s available locally via your GP or social services department.

Another invaluable source of support and information is Carers UK. If you are an unpaid carer you can join this organisation for free. You will then receive the latest news and information, access to their online forum, and more. Visit the Carers UK website to sign up.

Training and Education

Various organisations offer training and workshops to help carers develop the necessary skills and knowledge for their care-giving role. Training may cover topics such as medical care, handling emergencies and navigating the healthcare system. Again your GP or social services department.should be able to point you in the right direction. There are also free online courses you can take.

Technology and Tools

Technological advances have led to the development of tools and applications to help carers manage their responsibilities more efficiently. These tools can include medication management apps, online support forums and communication platforms. There are also services such as Lifeconnect24 that allow people to be monitored in their own home and summon emergency assistance quickly – or even automatically – if required.

Closing Thoughts

Unpaid carers play a vital role in maintaining the well-being of their loved ones and the overall healthcare system. Moreover, by providing their services free of charge, they save the government and NHS many millions of pounds.

Recognizing the challenges, the government and other organisations offer a range of financial, health and practical support services, which aim to ease the burden on carers and enhance their overall quality of life.

If you’re an unpaid carer (or know someone who is) be sure to explore all the options to ensure you’re getting all the help available. Remember, caring for the carer is vital – not only for that person, but for the person receiving the care and the healthcare system as a whole.

  • As always, if you have any comments or questions about this article, please do leave them below. You must be registered with Over 60s Discounts and logged in to comment.

Nick Daws writes for Pounds and Sense, a UK personal finance and lifestyle blog aimed especially at older people.

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