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Carer’s Benefits – Frequently Asked Questions

13.06.19

To coincide with Carers’ Week, this blog is specifically aimed at carer’s, without which our country’s NHS and care services would completely fall apart.

We receive a lot of queries from carers about their benefit entitlement, especially when they are considering either going into work, giving up work or reducing their hours to fit with their caring responsibilities. Here are some questions we are frequently asked by carers.

I’m a carer for my disabled child and I’m not working at the moment, although I would like to at some stage. Which benefits are available to me?

If you are under pension age, and you’re caring for a disabled person for at least 35 hours a week, then Carer’s Allowance (CA) is the main benefit which is relevant to you.

There are some conditions, on top of the 35 hours a week requirement. The main rules are that you can’t be in full time education or subject to immigration control AND:

  • the person you look after must be getting middle or high rate DLA care, or either rate of the daily living component of PIP, or either rate of Attendance Allowance (AA) AND
  • you must not be earning more than £123 a week (this is after deductions, half of any contribution you make to a pension, employment-related expenses, and expenses to take care of the disabled person while you work)

As Carer’s Allowance is not viewed as a means tested benefit (even though it has an earnings rule), any capital you or your partner have is ignored, along with your partner’s earnings.

Carer’s Allowance is so low – why would I bother claiming?

The weekly amount of Carer’s Allowance is only £66.15 and some people think that this is so low it’s not worth bothering with.

Think again! Carer’s Allowance might be low, but it does bring with it some advantageous stuff:

  • you will get a Class 1 National Insurance credit for every week you get CA, which will go towards securing benefits and your retirement pension in the future
  • if you are claiming a means tested benefit such as Universal Credit or Housing Benefit, then getting CA will increase your means tested benefit entitlement
  • getting CA will protect you from any work-related requirements that might be attached to any other benefits you claim: in Universal Credit, for instance, anyone getting CA will not have to look for work

Can carers claim Universal Credit? I’ve heard it might be better for me.

We have written quite a lot about Universal Credit (UC) in previous blogs, and we have mentioned before that while UC has its flaws, it is more flexible than old style benefits in many ways. One of those ways is the treatment of carers under UC. As you know, UC is the new means tested benefit, which looks at the means and circumstances of everyone who is part of the claim.

If you are caring for a disabled person who receives DLA, PIP or AA (as described above), and you are caring for them for at least 35 hours a week, then you can claim Carer’s Allowance. However, you can also ask for something called the Carer Element to be included in your Universal Credit. This element is included for those who receive CA, but also for carers who earn too much to claim actual Carer’s Allowance. The Carer Element is worth an extra £160.20 a month in your UC. It’s basically a long-sought recognition that many carers can juggle both work and caring responsibilities. As carers getting CA or the Carer Element cannot be required to do work search or be available for work, you can basically choose what hours you work to fit with your caring role, and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has to accept that.

Also bear in mind that you will only get the Class 1 national insurance credit if you get CA. If you don’t receive CA (because of earnings) but do get the carer element, you may be entitled to the carer credit or a Class 3 credit..

If you claim Universal Credit and Carer’s Allowance, then the CA will be taken fully into account as income but remember getting CA in the first place will trigger the Carer Element, so you will always be up to £160.20 a month better off.

I really want to try working, but won’t my earnings be taken straight off my Universal Credit?

Of course, the downside is that your earnings will affect your UC, but the amount that will be deducted from your UC depends on whether or not you have children – if you have children or a disability yourself, then you are allowed to keep more of your earnings. See below for the online calculators which will help you work it all out.

What about the benefits of the person I care for? Will they be affected by any claim I might make?

If you are contemplating making a claim for Carer’s Allowance or Universal Credit, then you will need to consider any likely impact on the benefits being claimed by the person you care for IF they are an adult and claiming in their own right.

If the person you care for gets an increase in their means tested benefits called the severe disability premium, which is worth up to £65.85 a week to them, then you need to know that this premium will stop if you get Carer’s Allowance or the Universal Credit Carer Element. You will have to decide who needs it more! It may be that the person getting the premium could pay you for caring for them, but this would not give you the same protection or national insurance credit as getting the carer-related benefits yourself.

How do I know if the person I care for is getting the severe disability premium?

If the person you care for receives any means tested benefits, they ‘live alone’ (i.e. with no partner or non-dependant), and they get Attendance Allowance, or the daily living component of PIP, or the middle or high rate of DLA care component, then it’s likely they get the severe disability premium (or they should be!). They may have notification of this in their letters from the DWP, or they may need to call DWP to find out. If you are their appointee or you have power of attorney for finance affairs, then you should be able to access this information yourself.

As a carer with a lot on my plate, how do I know if I’ll be better off by working?

There is no magic way of knowing if you will be better off by working, as sometimes the expenses involved in going to work make it difficult to justify a marginal gain.

However, as we have said many times before, everyone’s circumstances are different, and there are really good online calculators to help you work it out:

www.turn2us.org.uk

www.entitledto.co.uk

www.policyinpractice.co.uk

Are there organisations that can help me?

There is a huge amount of both national and local resources for carers.

The first step is always to contact Carers UK:

www.carersuk.org

They have a fantastic helpline, and can put you in touch with local carers groups.

They can also point you in the direction of all the extra resources that carers can access, such as the Carers Cinema Card and other local authority provisions for carers.

As the Renaissance Legal benefits consultants, we can look at your benefit situation and help you work out what might be the best route for you. Please get in touch.

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