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Financial Support for Carers

There is financial help available for Carers and it's important that you claim it.  This is an outline of what’s available. 

It can be complicated, and there is a lot of information on this page.

To make it easier for you to find what you are looking for, there is a list of the main topics we cover below - just click on what you're looking for and it will take you straight there.

To return to this list, just click the 'Back to the Top' link.

Carer's Allowance

Carer's Allowance is the main social security benefit for Carers.  You can qualify for Carer's Allowance if: 

  • You are aged 16 or over (there is no financial assistance for younger Carers);
  • You spend at least 35 hours each week caring for a disabled person who receives Attendance Allowance, or Disability Living Allowance middle or highest rate care component.  This might mean just being in the same house to keep an eye on them and helping when needed.  You are allowed breaks from caring of up to four weeks in every six months, for instance if the disabled person goes into respite care;
  • You are not earning more than £100 a week from work – as soon as you earnings go over this amount you lose the whole of your Carer's Allowance
  • You are not in full time education.

It doesn’t matter whether the disabled person is a relative of yours or not, and you do not have to be living at the same address as the disabled person.   

However, the disabled person will be asked to confirm that you are indeed caring for them when you make your claim for Carer's Allowance. You can claim Carer's Allowance if you care for a disabled child, whether it is your own child or, for instance, a foster child or grandchild. 

Carer's Allowance isn’t affected by any earnings of your partner, if you have one.  Nor is it affected by any capital (like savings or property) you or your partner may have. 

Carer's Allowance is normally £58.45 per week from April 2012. 

If there are two people caring for one disabled person, only one of them can claim Carer's Allowance. If one Carer is caring for two disabled people they can only get one award of Carer's Allowance. 

Claims for Carer's Allowance can normally be backdated by up to three months.  However if the disabled person you are caring for is waiting for a decision on their claim for DLA or Attendance Allowance, your claim for Carer's Allowance can be backdated to the date of the disabled person’s DLA or Attendance Allowance claim, however long ago that was, provided you claim Carer's Allowance within three months of the date of the DLA or Attendance Allowance decision. 

Carer's Allowance can continue to be paid for eight weeks after the death of the person you were caring for provided you are still not earning too much or in full time education and provided you were being paid Carer's Allowance immediately before the disabled person’s death. 

To claim Carer's Allowance: 

  • If you are under 60, phone 0800 055 6688.  Your details will be taken over the phone and you will be phoned back to complete the form
  • If you are aged 60 or over, phone the Carer's Allowance Unit in Preston on 01253 856123 and ask for a claim pack
  • You can also claim, or report changes, online at http://www.dwp.gov.uk/Carersallowance/

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Carer's Allowance and other benefits

Many Carers, especially elderly Carers, will not actually be paid Carer's Allowance, even though they satisfy all the conditions. This is because they receive other, ‘overlapping’ benefits which are higher.   

If you are entitled to two ‘overlapping’ benefits you can only be paid the higher one. The benefits which ‘overlap’ with Carer's Allowance include:  

  • State Retirement Pension
  • Incapacity Benefit
  • Contributory Employment Support Allowance
  • Bereavement Allowance and Bereaved Parents Allowance
  • Severe Disablement Allowance
  • Maternity Allowance

However, people who receive one of these benefits will often gain from claiming Carer's Allowance, even though it isn’t paid to them. This is because people, who would have qualified for Carer's Allowance, but for the overlapping benefits rule, will be classed as Carers within the benefits system.   

If you are classed as a Carer you may be entitled to other financial help, like the Carer Premium in Income Support or the extra amount for Carers in Pension Credit. 

In a few cases though, if the Carer receives Carer's Allowance, this can reduce the benefits paid to the disabled person.   

This can happen when the disabled person receives Income Support or Pension Credit which includes an amount called the severe disability Premium because they have no other adults living with them.  It is a condition of receiving the severe disability Premium that no-one receives Carer's Allowance for looking after the disabled person. Get advice if you think this might apply. 

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Carer's Allowance, Income Tax and Tax Credits 

Carer's Allowance is taxable income and should be included on all income tax returns. Carer's Allowance also counts as benefit income for Tax Credits and should be included as benefit income on Tax Credit forms. 

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Pension Credit 

Pension Credit is the means tested benefit for single people aged over the pensionable age for women, and for couples when at least one of them is aged over the pensionable age for women.  (The pensionable age for women was 60 until April 2010 but it is now increasing for women born after 6th April 1950.  Although the pensionable age for men is not changing until 2018, men are still affected by this change because they become eligible for Pension Credit at the pensionable age for a woman with the same birthday). 

As a means tested benefit, Pension Credit is affected if you have capital of more than £10,000 and it works by topping your income up to a set level which depends on your circumstances.  Couples are assessed on their joint income and capital. 

Anyone aged over pensionable age for women can qualify for Pension Credit if their income and capital are low enough. 

The standard Pension Credit allowances for 2011-12 are: 

  • £142.70 a week for a single person
  • £217.90 a week for a couple
  • Plus, an extra amount for Carers of £32.60 a week.

You will be allowed an amount for Carers if: 

  • You receive Carer's Allowance; OR
  • You have claimed Carer's Allowance and would have received it but for the overlapping benefit rule (see above under Carer's Allowance).

You can get two extra amounts for Carers if both of a couple meet these conditions.  For instance a couple might both receive Attendance Allowance and each of them might be caring for the other one. Or each one of a couple might both be caring for a different disabled person. 

Pension Credit allowances can sometimes include other amounts as well.  But remember that these are not the amounts you will be paid, they are the levels to which you income can be made up, if your income and capital are low enough. 

Remember that to qualify for the extra Pension Credit for Carers you must have made a claim for Carer's Allowance, even if you can’t actually be paid it. 

And remember that if a disabled person’s Pension Credit includes an amount called the severe disability Premium it is a condition of receiving this that no-one receives Carer's Allowance for looking after the disabled person. Get advice if you think this might apply. 

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Income Support, Jobseekers Allowance and Employment Support Allowance

Income Support, income related Employment Support Allowance (IRESA), and Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) are means tested benefits for people aged under pensionable age for women (which was 60 until April 2010 but is now increasing). 

Jobseekers Allowance is the main benefit for unemployed people. However it is not usually a suitable benefit for Carers because it requires you to be available for any suitable work at short notice, with only very limited allowance made for caring responsibilities.  Carers should look to claim Income Support instead, if possible. 

Employment Support Allowance is a new benefit from October 2008 which replaces both Incapacity Benefit and Income Support for people who are incapable of work. Carers who have health problems themselves may be able to claim Employment Support Allowance. However in many cases, especially for couples, it may be better to claim Income Support as a Carer instead. 

The main means tested benefit for Carers, who are aged under pensionable age for women, is Income Support. 

You can claim Income Support as a Carer if:

  • You (and your partner if you have one) are both under pensionable age for women;
  • You (and your partner if you have one) do not work more than 16 hours a week;
  • You (and your partner if you have one) have less than £16,000 in capital, at most;
  • Your income is low enough; AND
  • You receive Carer's Allowance; OR
  • You are regularly and substantially engaged in caring for a disabled person who receives, or is waiting for an award of, Attendance Allowance or Disability Living Allowance middle or highest rate care component.

Once you are entitled to Income Support as a Carer you can go on receiving it for up to eight weeks after you stop qualifying as a Carer under these rules, for any reason including the death of the person you were caring for. 

There is no space here to explain the rules about the calculation the amount of Income Support, (or IRESA or JSA) but these benefits all include an extra allowance for Carers.  This is £31.00 a week from April 2011, and is called the Carer Premium.  You will be allowed a Carer Premium in the calculation of these benefits if: 

  • You receive Carer's Allowance; OR
  • You have claimed Carer's Allowance and would have received it but for the overlapping benefit rule (see above under Carer's Allowance).

For a couple you will be allowed one Carer Premium for each of you who satisfies these conditions – so you can get two Carer Premiums if you are each caring for a different disabled person.  For instance you might each be caring for a different disabled child.  Or you might be a couple, both severely disabled, who each look after each other. 

The effect of qualifying for a Carer Premium is that your Income Support level (or your IRESA or JSA level) will be increased.  If you already get Income Support (or IRESA or JSA) that means your income will increase by £32.60 a week.  If you didn’t qualify for Income Support (or IRESA or JSA) because your income was too high, you may qualify once the Carer Premium is included in the calculation. 

Remember that to qualify for the Carer Premium in Income Support (or IRESA or JSA) you must have made a claim for Carer's Allowance, even if you can’t actually be paid it. 

And remember that if a disabled person’s Income Support (or IRESA or JSA) includes an amount called the severe disability Premium it is a condition of receiving this that no-one receives Carer's Allowance for looking after the disabled person.  Get advice if you think this might apply. 

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Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support

Housing Benefit is the means tested benefit that gives help with rent for people whose income and capital are low enough. Council Tax Support provides equivalent help for council tax. 

Both Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support include a Carer Premium in their calculation, in the same way as Income Support.  Again to get the benefit of this extra allowance you must have made a claim for Carer's Allowance. 

If you are entitled to the Carer Premium in Housing Benefit or Council Tax Support, the effect may be: 

  • To reduce the amount of rent you have to pay (by about £21 a week); OR
  • To reduce the amount of council tax you have to pay (by about £6.50 a week); OR
  • That you qualify for help with rent and council tax for the first time, if your income was too high before.

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Universal Credit 

Income Support, income related ESA and JSA, Housing Benefit and all Tax Credits are all going to be replaced with a new unified benefit called Universal Credit, starting from October 2013. 

Carer's Allowance itself will not be affected by this change and will remain as a separate benefit, under current rules. 

However any additional support for Carers, under pensionable age for women, will from October 2013 be provided by the new Universal Credit.   

Full details of how this will work are not known but it is expected that:

Universal Credit will include an additional allowance for Carers, similar to the current Carer Premium; however it will not be possible, under Universal Credit, for the same person to receive an additional amount for disability and additional amount for Carers; 

But many vital details about Universal Credit and how it might affect Carers are not known at the time of writing.  

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Council Tax discounts 

Find out more about:

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National Insurance Credits 

Carer's Allowance credits 

You are credited with Class 1 National Insurance contributions for any weeks that you receive Carer's Allowance.  This will help ensure that you get a full State Retirement Pension. From 2002 the credits will also qualify for an additional pension, equivalent to what you would have received if you were working and earning about £12,500 a year.  These credits will also qualify you for Employment Support Allowance, if you cease being a Carer and have health problems, and some other benefits. 

Carer's Allowance Credits are also paid if you have claimed Carer's Allowance but do not receive it because you receive Widows or Bereavement benefits which are higher.  If you do not receive Carer's Allowance because you receive some other benefit, you will not receive Carer's Allowance Credits but you will probably be entitled to the credits which are available with that benefit. 

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Carers Credits 

From April 2010 a new ‘Carer’s Credit’ will pay Class 3 National Insurance contributions for anyone who spends 20 hours a week or more caring for a disabled person. Class 3 National Insurance contributions only count towards the basic State Retirement Pension and State Second Pension so this is not as good an option as the Class 1 National Insurance credits that are paid if you receive Carer's Allowance. 

You should receive these Carers Credits automatically if you receive Income Support as a Carer.  Otherwise, you will have to apply for Carers credits, from 6th April 2010, on form CC1. This is available:

You will qualify for Carers Credits provided you are caring for a disabled person for at least 20 hours a week. 

If the disabled person does not receive Attendance Allowance or Disability Living Allowance middle or highest rate care component you will have to get the CC1 claim form signed by a health or social care professional to confirm that this level of care is appropriate. 

The same credits are also paid, from 6th April 2010, to: 

  • People with children under 12 for whom they receive Child Benefit
  • Foster Carers.

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Tax Credits 

If you have dependent children you will need to claim Child Benefit, and probably Child Tax Credit.  If you or your partner are working, on a low enough wage you may also qualify for Working Tax Credit.  Unfortunately the Tax Credit system has no special allowances or concessions for Carers. 

However, because the earnings limit for Carer's Allowance is now £100 pw (see above), Carers can now work for 16 hours a week or more at minimum wage and possibly receive Working Tax Credit. 

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