Caring often leads to financial difficulties, with many carers reporting that they are financially worse off as a result of caring.
The financial strain is often reinforced as carers are less able to focus on their career, mainly due to reduced promotion and training prospects.
Therefore, it is important to ensure you and the person you are caring for are claiming any benefits you may be entitled to and that if you are working you ensure your employer knows about your caring role.
What is available to me?
Carers allowance is the main benefit for carers. It is a benefit paid to help people who look after someone else who has substantial needs for care. You don’t have to be related to or live with the person you are caring for. You need to be over 16 and to be spending at least 35 hours a week caring for a person.
The person you care for must be getting one of the following:
- Attendance Allowance
- Disability Living Allowance at the middle or highest rate for personal care
- Personal Independence Payment
- Constant Attendance Allowance at or above the normal maximum rate with an Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit
- Constant Attendance Allowance at the basic (full day) rate with a War Disablement Pension
- You satisfy UK residence and immigration rules
- Armed Forces Independence Payment
Carers and the State Pension
If you are a carer receiving the state pension you cannot normally get carers allowance. This is because of the ‘overlapping rule’. However, you may have underlying entitlement to carers allowance.
As a carer you may be able to access grants to help you take a break or to pay for essential household items. There are many benevolent funds which offer financial support to people on low incomes. This includes support for people who have worked in a particular occupation or who live in a certain geographical area. Others have a more general remit.
What if I am working?
Currently, four million carers are of working age and more than three million juggle care with work.
However, the significant demands of caring mean that one in five carers are forced to give up work altogether.
Giving up work in order to care is a big decision to take. Before making any final choices there are a number of questions you should ask yourself:
- Do I want to spend all my time caring?
- Do I feel guilty about working?
- Do I think that I’m the only person who can care properly?
- Is the person I’m caring for refusing to accept outside help?
- Can I afford to give up my salary?
- How will this affect any future pension entitlement?
- Will I miss the social aspect or the working itself?
- Will I lose important skills?
Most working carers have the following rights:
- The right to request flexible working
- The right to time off in emergencies
- The right to parental leave if you have a child
- The right not to be discriminated against or harassed under the Equality Act
If you are self-employed, on a short term contract or employed through an agency you may not be covered by these rights.
One of the first steps to take is to ensure your employer is aware of your situation. Your employer can consider making reasonable changes to your work pattern.
Alternative working arrangement might be:
- Work part-time
- To job share
- Work term time only
- Compressed working hours (perhaps fitting five days working time into four days)
Alternatively, there may be someone in your workplace who could help, perhaps a human resources or occupational health adviser or an in-house counselling or information service.