Financial issues for carers
This page looks at the financial issues that affect carers and the support available, including carer's allowance and other benefits, council tax reductions, and how best to combine your work and caring responsibilities.
Working out which benefits you can claim and how much money you should get can be complicated and confusing, so it's a good idea to talk to an adviser at Citizens Advice or welfare rights agency before you make a claim. An adviser can help you get what you're entitled to. Use the Advice Services Directory to find an agency near you.
Who can claim carer's allowance?
You may be able to claim carer's allowance if:
- you are 16 or over, and
- you spend over 35 hours a week caring for an adult or disabled child, and
- you are not in full-time education involving 21 hours or more of supervised study, and
- you earn no more than £95 a week.
You don't have to be related to the person you care for, nor do you have to live with them. However, the person you're caring for must receive either:
- attendance allowance, or
- disability living allowance at the highest rate or middle rate for personal care, or
- constant attendance allowance at or above the normal maximum rate with an industrial injuries disablement benefit, or basic (full day) rate with a war disablement pension.
If someone else is looking after the person as well (for example, if you and brother or sister both look after your mother or father), only one of you can receive carer's allowance.
Can I get backdated carer's allowance or apply in advance?
If you have been a carer for a while but have not made a claim, you may be entitled to up to three months' worth of backdated carer's allowance, depending on your circumstances. You can also put in a claim up to three months in advance, if you know you will be caring for someone then, for example, because they will be coming out of hospital.
How does carer's allowance affect other benefits?
Claiming carer's allowance may affect any other benefits you or the person you look after already receive, and in some cases, you may be better off not claiming. It's a good idea to talk to an adviser at Citizens Advice or welfare rights centre - they'll be able to help you decide what's best.
How do I make a claim?
To make a claim, you need to fill in a form, which you can pick up from your local Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) office or Jobcentre. You can also find out more about carer's allowance and make a claim online at the Gov.uk website.
What if the person I care for dies?
If the person you care for dies, you'll continue to receive carer's allowance for a further eight weeks.
You may be able to claim other benefits, such as income support, pension credit or housing benefit, and you may also be entitled to tax credits. In an emergency situation, you may be able to get a grant or loan from the social fund. You can find out more about all these in our section on benefits.
Self-directed support (direct payments)
If you are caring for a disabled child and social work has assessed their needs and decided they require children's services, you can ask the council to give the money that they would have spent on these services directly to you. You can then use this money to arrange and pay for the care services your child needs yourself. Once your child turns 16, the direct payments can be given to them instead, so they can arrange their own services.
You can also receive direct payments if you are the attorney or guardian of someone who has been assessed as needing services and you have financial powers to act on their behalf. This may be the case, for example, if you are caring for someone with dementia.
You can find out more about self-directed support.
Council tax reductions
As a carer, you may be able to get your council tax reduced if you:
- live in the same property as the person you look after, and
- provide at least 35 hours of care a week, but
- the person you look after isn't your husband, wife, civil partner, partner or child.
However, the person you look after has to receive one of the following benefits:
- attendance allowance at the higher rate
- disability living allowance at the higher rate for personal care
- an increased disablement pension
- an increased constant attendance allowance.
If you leave your own home unoccupied to live with the person you look after, you may be exempt from paying council tax. You'll need to write to the council and tell them:
- when you moved out of your home
- that no-one is now living in your home
- your new address and the name of the person you look after
- the level and type of care you're providing
- whether you intend to return to your home.
You can find out more about council tax exemptions and reductions for disabled people here. If you live with the person who has the disability and they are a member of your family you may be able to get a discount - check the Scottish Government's Council tax guide for people with special needs and their carers.
National insurance credits and home responsibilities protection
If you're unable to work because you're a carer, you can also receive national insurance credits toward your state retirement pension and state second pension. You will receive this automatically if you are claiming carer's allowance. If you cannot get this, you may still be able to protect your pension by claiming home responsibilities protection. You can find out more at the HM Revenues and Customs website or by contacting your local HMRC enquiries office.
Combining caring and work
Some carers struggle to combine the responsibilities of caring for someone with the responsibilities of a job. Others feel they can't talk to their employers about their situation in case they are judged unfairly. Many carers worry that the additional responsibility of being a carer makes them seem less able to do their job or hinders their chances of promotion or other opportunities. Many are forced to give up work completely.
However, with the right support from your employer, it should be possible to balance working and caring successfully. For example, you may be able to arrange with your employer to:
- work part time or job share
- work flexible hours
- work from home
- compress your hours (for example, work 35 hours over four days instead of five)
- take unpaid leave until you can get more help with your caring responsibilities.
Taking time off
Remember, you have a right to take a reasonable amount of time off to deal with an emergency involving a dependant, for example if they have an accident or your usual care arrangements break down. It's up to your employer to decide whether or not to pay you for this time off. If you look after a disabled child, you're also entitled to a total of 18 weeks of parental leave, to be taken before your child turns 18.
Working flexible hours
From April 2007, some carers also have the right to ask their employers if they can work flexible hours. Your employer will have to think seriously about your request - they can't just dismiss it without consideration. If they refuse, they must have a good business reason for doing so.
You will have this right if:
- you have worked for your employer for 26 weeks or more, and
- you care for your partner or a close adult relative (for example, your parents, parents-in-law, brother or sister), or you care for another adult who lives with you.
You can find out more about this at the Gov.uk website.
The Carers Scotland and Employers for Carers websites have more information on your rights at work, as well as lots of useful advice on communicating with your employer, requesting flexible working conditions and returning to work after time spent caring.
What about the finances of the person I look after?
The person you look after may ask you, their partner or another family member to look after their legal, financial and welfare rights once they become too ill to do so. To give you the legal right to do this, they will need to see a solicitor and sign a power of attorney.
Other financial tips
The Gov.uk website lists other ways you can save money if you look after a disabled person, including how to get reductions on:
- train travel
- owning a car
- entertainment and leisure.