Ahead of Carers Rights Day, the benefits information charity Turn2us explains how carers might be entitled to more support than they think…
Friday 29 November is Carers Rights Day, an event organised by Carers UK to raise awareness of the millions of carers’ benefits going unclaimed each year, and to help carers access the support they are entitled to.
Every year more than 2 million people become carers. Yet many of them do not identify themselves as carers, and are unaware of the financial help that could be available to them.
In its own survey of carers, the charity Turn2us found that half were not claiming Carer’s Allowance, and that almost a quarter were not receiving any benefits at all. At the same time, over two fifths of the respondents had struggled to pay their energy bills, and nearly a third were regularly skipping meals.
The charity is helping carers in such situations to access financial support – people like Liz, who cares for her elderly mother and was unexpectedly made redundant. She contacted Turn2us who identified that in addition to several means-tested benefits, Liz was eligible for Carer’s Allowance. Liz says that the £59 per week she receives from this benefit has made a positive difference.
Brian, a carer for his disabled wife, was struggling to get by on a low income and getting into arrears with his bills. Through Turn2us’ Grants Search tool, Brian was able to apply for a charitable grant of £800 which has helped to pay off some of his debts.
Here, Karen Holmes, Welfare Benefits Specialist at the charity explains more about the welfare benefits and other support that carers might be able to apply for.
You might be eligible for Carer’s Allowance if you care for someone for at least 35 hours a week and they are in receipt of a disability benefit such as Attendance Allowance, the middle or high rate care component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or a daily living component of Personal Independence Payment (PIP).
You do not need to be living with the person you care for to qualify, but you won’t be eligible if you earn more than £100 per week or are in full-time education.
Since 6 April 2010, certain carers can be ‘credited’ with national insurance contributions. This can help them qualify for State Pension, Widowed Parent’s Allowance and Bereavement Allowance, which they may not otherwise have been eligible for if their caring responsibilities prevented them from being able to work and pay national insurance contributions in the normal way.
You might be eligible for Carer’s Credits if you aren’t yet receiving a State Pension and spend at least 20 hours a week caring for someone but don’t qualify for Carer’s Allowance. Carers who receive Carer’s Allowance will already be credited with national insurance contributions from receiving that benefit.
Checking your benefits entitlement
You may be eligible to claim other benefits, depending on your household income and situation. It’s always worth checking what benefits you may be entitled to, especially if you’ve recently experienced a change in circumstances.
Turn2us has a new, free and easy to use Benefits Calculator to help you work out which benefits you may be entitled to, how much you should receive and how to make a claim.
Depending on your situation, the rules about what you might receive can be complicated, so you may also wish to seek face-to-face help from a local adviser.
In addition to welfare benefits, carers who are struggling financially may also be able to apply for help from a charitable fund.
Turn2us has an online Grants Search tool that provides access to over 3000 charitable funds that give grants and other forms of support to help people with various circumstances and needs. For example, there may be funds set up to specifically help carers, or funds linked to the person you care for, or related to your background.
The Grants Search tool includes details of each fund’s eligibility criteria and how to apply.
Further information and support
Depending on your circumstances and what is available where you live, services to help you in your role as a carer should be provided by your local council.
Your needs will be assessed and a care plan will be drawn up. The help you receive could include regular breaks from caring or equipment and adaptations to your home to make your caring tasks easier.
You can contact your local council to find out more about this help.
You can find further information, including some useful links, about benefits and other help for carers on the Turn2us website.