What can you claim as an unpaid carer?

It is estimated that there are currently around 6 million unpaid carers in the United Kingdom, looking after a family member or friend.  Caring for someone can be exhausting both physically and mentally and can be incredibly lonely.  The time needed to care for a loved one often leads to loss of social life and time spent with friends. Caring for someone can also impact financially as often the carer will need to give up work or reduce hours to manage caring for their loved one.  It is important to recognise that you are a carer and be aware that there is support out there for you.

Around one in six carers are in debt

A recent report by Carers UK identified that around one in six unpaid carers are in debt due to their role as carers.  The number increases to two in five of those receiving Carer’s Allowance.  Many have reported using food banks to cope with the cost of living crisis. Seventy-nine percent of carers report feeling stressed or anxious, 49% are depressed, and 44% of carers have put off health treatment because of their caring role, according to Carers UK. So it is crucial to be aware of what benefits you can claim to help support you as a carer and what are your legal rights if you are an employee.

Your right to support

Under the Care Act 2014, unpaid carers over the age of 18 are entitled to local authority support.  This gives carers as much right to support as those they are caring for. 

Right to a carer's assessment

As well as your rights as a carer, it is important you are aware of the financial support you are entitled to.  A Carer’s Assessment will assess whether caring is impacting on your health and wellbeing it is available free for anyone over 18.  If your local authority assesses you and finds you are eligible for support, you may be able to get practical, emotional and financial help.

The help may include respite care for the person you are caring for as well as equipment to help them be more independent.  Unpaid carers can also get access to help with housework and counselling to support you in your role.  In regards to financial support your local authority may be able to help you with transport and travel costs.  

Carer's Allowance

You may also be eligible for Carer’s Allowance.  This is the main benefit given to those in an unpaid caring role.  Currently, Carer’s Allowance is £76.75 per week, which equates to £307 per month.  In April this year, the benefit increases to £81.90 per week, which is £327.60 per month.  Carer’s Allowance is taxable and you must be earning less than £139 a week after tax and caring for a family member or a friend for at least 35 hours a week to be eligible to receive it. You can apply for Carer’s Allowance from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP)

Carer's Credit

If you are receiving Carer’s Allowance you are automatically eligible for Carer’s Credit.  Carer’s Credit is a benefit that gives National Insurance credits that count towards your National Insurance contributions.

What if you are not eligible for Carer's Allowance?

If you are not eligible for Carer’s Allowance, you may be entitled to other benefits.  These include:

  • Free prescriptions
  • Free dental treatment
  • Cold weather payments
  • Warm home discount
  • Free TV license if over 75

What if you are a carer, and also have care needs?

If you too have care needs you can also claim Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and this will not affect your Carer’s Allowance payments. Similarly, you can also claim Attendance Allowance and this will not affect your Carer’s Allowance.

​However, if you claim Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit, claiming Carer’s Allowance may affect your entitlement to these benefits as Carer’s Allowance is considered taxable income.

Universal Credit

If you are claiming Universal Credit and are caring for someone for at least 35 hours a week, you may also be eligible for Carer’s Element of Universal Credit.

Flu Jabs

If you are the main carer for someone who is older or disabled and they will be at risk if you become ill or you claim Carer’s Allowance your GP should offer you a free flu jab. In addition, you should be in the priority group for a Covid booster jab.

Council Tax

If you live with the person you care for and care for them at least 35 hours a week you will not have to pay council tax.

Rights at work

Working and caring for a loved one, can be incredibly stressful as you are being constantly pulled in two different directions.  However, some find work a respite from caring at home and could not cope without the income.  Some carers do find they are forced to give up work as the demands of caring grow.  However, if you do wish to stay in employment there are things you can do to help juggle both work and your care role.  

  • Speak with your employer – Explain what is going on and they may be able to make adjustments to your work pattern to give you more flexibility. If you have been working for your employer for 26 consecutive weeks you should have a statutory right to ask for flexible working and your employer will be obliged to consider it and will have to give you a good reason for refusing it. If your contract does not give you the statutory right you can still ask for flexible working but your employer does not have to consider your request. Flexible working includes asking for part time hours, changing your work hours to fit with your caring duties and condensing your working hours into fewer days. If your employer is unsure you can always try asking for a trial period to see how it would work.
  • Taking time off in an emergency – You are entitled to take time off work if there is an emergency concerning a close family member or someone you care for. Some employers call this time off ‘dependant leave’ and it tends to be unpaid leave but in some cases employers do give paid leave.
  • Medical appointments – you will not be able to get ‘dependant’ leave if it is for a planned event such as a hospital appointment. In that case you will probably have to take it as paid annual leave.

Carer's Leave in 2024

From 6 April 2024, carers will have the right to Carer’s Leave due to the Carers Leave Act passed in May 2023. This Act will give carers five days unpaid leave from work every 12 months. It will apply to employees in England, Scotland and Wales.

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