There are around seven million carers in the UK, and it’s estimated that three in five of us will become a carer at some stage in our lives Although you can become a carer from age 16, it is the 50 to 64-age group that accounts for the majority of people taking on this potentially daunting responsibility.
For many, caring for another person is a full-time job, meaning they cannot earn enough money elsewhere to give them the quality of life they’d like and – given all the hours they devote to being a carer – deserve.
It’s not just the wages they are missing out on either, as carers often incur additional costs that they don’t pass on to the person they are caring for. These can range from the increased use of their car (or other transport), to extra use of their washing machine and tumble dryer, and ad hoc shopping purchases.
Then there is also the physical and psychological impact, as carers are more likely to get ill or feel worn out because of juggling two lives. So, all in all, caring costs the carer dearly in finances, time and health terms.
That's where the Carer's Allowance comes in.
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What is the Carer’s Allowance?
Carer’s Allowance is available to anyone who meets the eligibility criteria. To receive the Carer's Allowance, a carer must be aged 16 or over, live in the UK for most of the time, not be in full-time education and spend at least 35 hours a week caring for someone (who does not need to be a spouse or relative).
They must also not earn more than £123 a week after deductions, while fulfilling their caring duties.
This is just one side of the coin, as there are also rules surrounding the person being cared for. Specifically, in order for a carer to receive the Carer's Allowance, the person being cared for must get one of a shortlist of benefits as follows:
* Personal Independence Payment (PIP): daily living component.
* Disability Living Allowance (DLA): the middle or highest care rate.
* Attendance Allowance (AA)
* Constant Attendance Allowance (CAA) at or above the normal maximum rate with an Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit, or at the basic (full day) rate with a War Disablement Pension.
* Armed Forces Independence Payment (AFIP)
Carer's Allowance is not means tested.
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How do I claim Carer’s Allowance?
Firstly, you must tell the person you care for that you will intend to claim Carer's Allowance before you apply, as it could have a negative impact on the benefits they receive.
Claiming Carer’s Allowance will differ depending on when you live. For instance:
* If you live in England, Scotland or Wales you can apply online or by completing either form DS700 or form DS700SP, which can be downloaded from the Department for Work and Pensions.
If you live in Northern Ireland, you can call the Disability and Carers Service on 028 9090 6186, the Benefit Enquiry Line on 0800 220674 or you can visit your local Jobs and Benefits or Social Security office.
Alternatively you can download either form DS700 or DS700(SP), if you are receiving the State pension, and send the completed form to the Disability and Carers Service in Belfast.
What do I need to hand to complete the Carer's Allowance form?
Although there are different forms for Northern Ireland and Great Britain, all require certain information that you’d be wise to gather together before you start. This includes your National Insurance number, your latest payslip or P45, your bank or building society details and the full name and date of birth of the person you are caring for.
Armed with this information, you should be able to complete the Carer's Allowance form with relative ease and within half an hour.
Note that if you stop at any point to do something else and take more than 90 minutes, the form page will time out, meaning you’ll have to start all over again.
How much will I get for claiming Carer's Allowance?
A registered carer can get £66.15 a week (regardless of how many people they care for), which is typically paid every four weeks. This payment is taxable and on top of certain other entitlements, including Pension Credit.
It is worth noting that claiming Carer’s Allowance could affect how much you receive from other means-tested benefits, such as Housing Benefit and Universal Credit, as well as any Working Tax Credit or Child Tax Credit you get.
As a carer you should receive National Insurance credits, which go towards your pension if you are under State pension age.
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How long does it take to find out if I'm able to claim Carer's Allowance?
You'll usually find out after three weeks from the claim for Carer's Allowance being received, which is immediately after you press the ‘submit’ button if applying online, but can be a few days depending on when they are posted.
Claims for Carer's Allowance can also be backdated for three months from when you apply.
What happens if I am no longer able to claim Carer's Allowance?
If you circumstances change and you no longer fulfil the criteria needed to claim Carer's Allowance, eg if you get a job or if the person you're caring for dies, you must tell the government here: Carer's Allowance: report changes.
If you are just taking a holiday, you should still report this; however you won't have to stop taking the Carer's Allowance during that time.
Find out which other benefits you might be entitled to
Useful links for carers and the cared-for
A list of some of the organisations, charities and networks that offer support and advice to carers and their families:
The Alzheimer's Society
The Alzheimer's Society is the leading UK care and research charity for people with dementia, their families and carers. Visit their website at alzheimers.org.uk.
Carers UK is an organisation of carers fighting to make people recognise the true value of carers' contribution to society and to ensure carers get the practical, financial and emotional support they need.
You can find out more about them at carersuk.org. A special carers' (0808 808 7777) line is open on Monday to Friday, 10am to 4pm.
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Independent Age offers a free advice service focusing on social care and welfare benefits, and particularly on complex issues such as social care funding.
They also have guides and factsheets providing information on the most common issues faced by older people, their families and carers; their 'Wise Guides' provide practical, accessible advice and information for the over-65s on finances, staying independent and getting the most out of later life.
Plus, they offer befriending and practical support services to provide crucial companionship, comfort and security for as long as it's needed - if necessary, for life. Visit the Independent Age website here.
Crossroads Care and The Princess Royal Trust for Carers merged in 2012 to form carers charity, Carers Trust.
The charity's stated vision is to combine the knowledge, skills, expertise and experience of its founder charities and all of the independent Network Partners; Crossroads Care schemes and The Princess Royal Trust for Carers local carers’ centres.
Their website www.carers.org explains: "Carers' needs, choices and voices will remain at the heart of everything we do, as we strive to ensure that the enormous contribution they make to those they care for and to society is fully recognised, appreciated and valued."
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Re-engage (formerly known as Contact The Elderly) is a nationwide organisation committed to fighting loneliness, ensuring that people can have social lives and friendship groups however old they are. It runs monthly Sunday afternoon tea parties all over the country for people aged 75 and over, who live alone with little or no support from friends, family or statutory services.
The afternoons are full of fun and laughter and make a real difference to the lives of older people. Visit their website at www.reengage.org.uk to learn more.
The Silver Line
The Silver Line is a free confidential telephone helpline offering information, friendship and advice to older people in the United Kingdom, available 24 hours a day. The Silver Line has teamed up with Age UK to help even more older people struggling with loneliness and isolation. Visit their website at www.thesilverline.org.uk to find out more.
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For more useful information, browse our care articles