This week is Carers Week 2024, an annual campaign which we’re supporting to acknowledge and show appreciation for the very hard job that unpaid carers do to support and care for some of the most vulnerable in our communities.

This year’s theme is ‘Putting carers on the map’, with a focus on increasing the visibility of carers and the valuable work that they do. Here at Renaissance Legal, with many of our clients being carers, we have brought together a summary of the Welfare Benefits available to carers, to show our support of this campaign and to share information in a transparent, easy-to-understand way.

Carer’s Allowance

Carer’s Allowance is not means tested, so your income and savings are not taken into account when the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) are working out if they can pay it to you. It is not contributory either, so you don’t need to have made any National Insurance contributions in order to qualify for it.

This being said, it has its own set of eligibility criteria and to claim Carer’s Allowance, you must meet all of the following criteria:

  • you look after someone who gets a qualifying disability benefit
  • you look after that person for at least 35 hours a week
  • you are aged 16 or over
  • you are not in full-time education
  • you don’t earn over £151 a week (net, so after deductions like tax)
  • you satisfy UK presence and residence conditions

Carer’s Allowance is currently paid at a rate of £81.90 per week (correct from April 2024).

What is a qualifying disability benefit?

This means the person you are looking after has to be getting:

What does the 35-hour rule mean?

The rules say you must be caring for the person for at least 35 hours every week, which can be any time during the day or night, on any day of the week, and can include:

  • time spent physically helping the person
  • time you spend ‘keeping an eye’ on the person
  • time spent doing essential practical tasks for them

Similarly, if you share the caring role with another person, and you both provide at least 35 hours of care every week, only one of you can claim Carer’s Allowance. You need to decide between you who should make the claim. The other person should seek advice about the benefits they can claim and may be able to claim Carer’s Credit for the time they spend caring.

What does ‘full time education’ mean?

The meaning of ‘full-time education’ is complicated and may depend on a number of factors including the type of course you are doing, and how the college describes your course. However, if the supervised study for the course is less than 21 hours a week, then the Carer’s Allowance Unit may allow it, even if the college says it is a full-time course.

If you are in full-time education, you also won’t be able to get Carer’s Allowance during temporary absences from your course including holiday periods.

How does the earnings rule work?

If you are in paid work (including self-employment) you cannot get Carer’s Allowance if you earn more than £151 a week AFTER deductions for tax, national insurance and half of any pension contributions. Self-employed people can also deduct expenses which are for business purposes, along the same lines as the income tax rules.

If you are an employee and are paid monthly, your monthly earnings are normally multiplied by 12 months and then divided by 52 weeks to get a weekly figure. If you have fluctuating earnings it is possible for your earnings to be averaged out over a recognisable cycle of work.
If you are in self-employment your average weekly earnings are normally calculated by looking a period which could viewed as representative of your earning cycle, which is normally a tax year unless you argue otherwise.

If, because of your work, you have to pay for someone to look after the person you care for, or for a child under 16 who you or your partner get Child Benefit for, you can deduct those payments from your earnings up to the value of half your earnings (after the above deductions if they apply), as long as the person you are paying is not a close relative.

What are the UK presence and residence conditions?

You cannot usually get Carer’s Allowance if you have immigration restrictions. To satisfy the residence and presence tests you must meet both of the following conditions:

  • you must have been present in the UK for two out of the last three years and
  • you must be habitually resident in the UK (this means you normally live here)

Other key things to note about Carer’s Allowance

  • You get class 1 National Insurance credits for every week you get Carer’s Allowance (helping to boost the amount of State Pension you will get in later life).
  • If you have carer status within the benefits system, you are exempt from any work search requirements that might normally be placed on you by the DWP if you are claiming Universal Credit.
  • With carer status, you are also exempt from the benefit cap.

Carer’s Allowance and overlapping benefits

You cannot usually be paid Carer’s Allowance if you receive another contribution-based benefit or the State Pension. These rules are complicated, though, so please get advice from us or a local advice agency before you decide what to do; don’t assume that you can’t claim Carer’s Allowance! Even some people claiming State Pension can claim something called the ‘underlying entitlement’ to Carer’s Allowance, and will see their Pension Credit (in the form of a Carer’s Addition) and Housing Benefit increase as a result.

Claiming Carer’s Allowance

Submitting a claim for Carer’s Allowance is relatively straight forward, claims can be made here- Carer’s Allowance: Make a claim – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) or by calling the Carer’s UK helpline on 0800 731 0297 to request a paper form.

Universal Credit- the Carer Element

If, as a Carer, you claim Universal Credit (which is a means-tested benefit, so subject to income and savings thresholds), there is an extra top up available to you within Universal Credit, and this is known as the Carer Element. The Carer Element is not subject to the same earnings cap as Carer’s Allowance, so it can be helpful to those who have caring responsibilities but who earn more than £151.00 per week.

A word of warning about the Severe Disability Premium…

It is common for some disabled people to get an extra premium in their means-tested benefits which is called the Severe Disability Premium. This is worth £81.50 per week, roughly the same amount as Carers Allowance, and it’s usually paid to people who are living alone, and getting Attendance Allowance, Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment. If you are a carer for someone who gets the Severe Disability Premium, then they will lose it if you start to receive Carer’s Allowance, or the Carer Element within Universal Credit.

This is a complicated area, and so it is ALWAYS best to get advice in these circumstances; each case needs to be looked at separately to evaluate the best way to maximise the benefits of both the carer and the disabled person.

Carers UK

This amazing organisation has been providing essential information and support for carers for a long time, and has an excellent range of helpful resources and factsheets:


How Renaissance Legal can help you

Our benefits experts can help you with everything benefits-related. If you would like our help in making a claim for Carer’s Allowance, or if you would like to discuss your benefit situation, then please contact us on 01273 610611.

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