Carer's Allowance is the main state benefit for carers, so it's important to find out if you can receive it. It is currently £61.35 a week, with a one-off £10 Christmas bonus in December.
You might be able to get Carer's Allowance if all of the following apply:
- you're 16 or over
- you spend at least 35 hours a week caring for someone
- you have been in England, Scotland or Wales for at least two of the last three years
- you normally live in England, Scotland or Wales, or you live abroad as a member of the armed forces
- you're not in full-time education or studying for more than 21 hours a week
- you earn less than £110 a week (after taxes, care costs while you're at work and 50% of what you pay into your pension)
Unlike other benefits, your savings or National Insurance contributions record won't make a difference to your claim for Carer's Allowance.
In fact, getting Carer's Allowance can help you build up your National Insurance contribution record, which will make getting a State Pension easier in the future.
Carer's Allowance is taxable.
You can claim Carer's Allowance online now. Alternatively, read on or click on the links below for more information about this benefit:
- Age rules for Carer's Allowance
- Qualifying benefits for Carer's Allowance
- Caring for 35 hours a week
- Caring and earnings
- How Carer's Allowance can help you get other benefits
- Full-time students
Age rules for Carer's Allowance
You can claim Carer's Allowance if you're aged 16 or over. There is no upper age limit, but it's not normally possible to get Carer's Allowance and State Pension at the same time.
When you reach State Pension age, you have the option of putting off taking your pension. This is known as deferring your pension. Deferring State Pension has advantages for some people, as it means they will get a higher pension or lump sum payment at a later date.
However, if you defer State Pension and claim Carer's Allowance, you won't build up any extra payment or lump sum. This means there is no advantage to deferring your State Pension if you're getting Carer's Allowance.
You can find out more about deferring State Pension on the GOV.UK website.
Getting Carer's Allowance since October 2002
If you were 65 or over and receiving Carer's Allowance in October 2002, you can continue to get it even if you stop caring for someone or you start to earn more than the earnings limit.
Caring for 35 hours a week
To qualify for Carer's Allowance, you have to provide 35 hours of care each week to the person you look after.
What this means:
- You will need to be providing at least 35 hours of care for the same person.
- If you're caring for two or more disabled people, you can't add together the hours you're caring for all of them to make up the 35. Even if you look after more than one person for 35 hours a week, you can only claim one lot of Carer's Allowance.
- When working out whether you provide 35 hours of care in any one week, note that a week runs from Sunday to Saturday under the Carer's Allowance rules.
- You can't average the time over a number of weeks. You have to provide at least 35 hours of care in each week for which you claim Carer's Allowance.
Care can be at any time
It doesn't matter what time of the day or night the care is provided. If someone you care for comes to stay with you, you can count their visit and the following as part of the 35 hours:
- the time you take to collect them and take them back to where they live
- time spent preparing for their visit - for example, preparing where they will sleep or preparing their meals
- time spent cleaning up after they leave
Qualifying benefits for Carer's Allowance
Your eligibility for Carer's Allowance depends on the benefits the person you're looking after receives.
The person you're looking after must receive one of the following benefits because they need help with personal care. They are:
- Personal Independence Payment daily living component
- Disability Living Allowance (DLA) at either the middle or high rate of the care component
- any level of Attendance Allowance (AA)
- Constant Attendance Allowance of the normal maximum rate, which is paid with a War Disablement Pension or Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit
- Armed Forces Independence Payment
If the person you're looking after only receives the mobility component or lowest rate care component of DLA, you will not be eligible for Carer's Allowance.
If they're getting the lowest rate care component of DLA and their condition has got worse, you can ask the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to consider its decision again and see if the middle or higher rate of the care component of DLA can be paid instead.
When asking for existing benefits to be reconsidered, there is a risk the DWP may decide the person you care for is no longer entitled to the level of benefit they're already receiving.
Claiming PIP, DLA or AA before you claim Carer's Allowance
Before claiming Carer's Allowance, wait until the person you look after receives a decision about their claim for PIP, AA or DLA. If you make your claim for Carer's Allowance within three months of the date of that decision, your Carer's Allowance will be paid from the same date the PIP, DLA or AA is paid. You will be paid the arrears of benefits you're owed.
Claiming top-up (means-tested) benefits while waiting for a decision
If you're entitled to a means-tested benefit such as Income Support, make a claim for it straight away. Do not wait for the person in your care to get a decision on their PIP, DLA or AA claim.
You can claim Income Support for up to six months while waiting for the person you're looking after to get a decision on their PIP, DLA or AA claim.
In some cases, you may be entitled to a means-tested benefit only once the person in your care gets PIP, DLA or AA and you have made a claim for Carer's Allowance. In this situation, you can claim the means-tested benefit at the same time the person you're looking after claims PIP, DLA or AA.
Your claim will be turned down, but if you make another claim for Carer's Allowance and the means-tested benefit within three months of the PIP, DLA or AA decision date, your means-tested benefit can be paid from the same date that PIP, DLA or AA is paid.
Caring and earnings
If you're working and earn less than £110 a week from paid work, you will not lose any of your Carer's Allowance. If you earn more than £110 a week, you will lose all of your Carer's Allowance for the weeks you earn that amount.
Only earnings affect your entitlement to Carer's Allowance. It is not affected by other income, such as an occupational pension or maintenance payments. The £110 is a net figure, which is the amount you're left with after deductions for:
- National Insurance
- Income Tax
- half of any pension contributions you make
Common questions about caring and earnings
My earnings vary - can I keep my Carer's Allowance?
If your earnings vary, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will usually agree to look at your average earnings over a five-week period if this means the earnings are assessed more accurately. It may help if you show the DWP a copy of your employment contract to show the details of the agreement about how you are to be paid.
I am self-employed - what information will the DWP need?
If you're self-employed, your weekly earnings will be averaged over a year. If you have recently become self-employed or there has been a change that's likely to affect the normal pattern of your business, the DWP can calculate your earnings in a different way.
The DWP will decide what period of time would be appropriate to assess your earnings. If you do not think the DWP has been fair in the way it has looked at your earnings, you could ask it to look at the decision again or appeal against it.
You will need to supply an up-to-date set of accounts when first claiming. Expenses (such as a car or telephone) incurred for the purposes of the business can be deducted.
What can I deduct from earnings when calculating Carer's Allowance?
You're allowed to deduct the following:
- any payments you make to someone (other than a close relative) to look after the person you normally care for while you're at work - up to half your net earnings can be ignored this way
- any payments you make to someone (other than a close relative) to look after your child (or children) under 16 while you're at work - up to half your net earnings can be ignored this way
- the first £20 of any income for renting out rooms in your own home
- foster care allowance from a local authority
Breaks from caring and earnings
In certain circumstances you can take a break from caring and still receive Carer's Allowance. A break from caring means you spend less than 35 hours a week caring for the person you usually look after.
For example, your Carer's Allowance may be paid for up to four weeks in any 26-week period if:
- you are going on holiday
- the person you care for is going on holiday
- the person you care for has a stay in a care home
Or your Carer's Allowance may be paid for up to 12 weeks in any 26-week period if:
- you are admitted to hospital or a similar institution
- the person you care for is admitted to hospital or a similar organisation
You must have received Carer's Allowance for at least 22 weeks before you can take one of these breaks. This entitlement to breaks cannot be saved up.
If the person you care for is in hospital for a continual period of more than four weeks, their Disability Living Allowance or Attendance Allowance will stop and so will your Carer's Allowance.
For further details, contact the Carer's Allowance Unit.
How Carer's Allowance can help you get other benefits
Claiming Carer's Allowance can affect your eligibility for means-tested benefits, including:
- Income Support, which can top up your income if you don't have to sign on as being unemployed - for example, if you're a carer or a lone parent
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance, which can top up your income if you're under 65 and have a "limited capacity for work" because of ill health or a disability
- Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, which can top up your income if you're actively seeking work
- Pension Credit, which can top up your income if you're at or near State Pension age
- Housing Benefit, which can help with rent if you have a low income
Means-tested benefits are only paid if you have limited income and capital (such as savings).
If you get Carer's Allowance, the carer premium (or carer addition for Pension Credit) will be added when your eligibility for means-tested benefits is worked out.
If you would be eligible for Carer's Allowance but you don't get it because you get an overlapping benefit, you can still get the carer premium or carer addition.
Getting the carer premium or carer addition could mean you're eligible for more means-tested benefits, or you're eligible for means-tested benefits when you weren't before.
On the other hand, your eligibility for means-tested benefits depends on your income, so any increase in your income - including getting Carer's Allowance - could mean you're no longer eligible or you get less benefit.
The best way to find out what you're entitled to, and how getting Carer's Allowance could affect this, is to get a full benefits check. Your local Citizens Advice Bureau, welfare rights organisation or carers centre may offer this service. Speak to the Carers Direct helpline on 0300 123 1053.
Full-time students and Carer's Allowance
If you're a student in full-time education, you can't receive Carer's Allowance. You count as a student if you attend school, college, university or a similar establishment. This could include distance learning with a body such as the Open University.
What counts as full-time education?
You'll be considered a full-time student and won't be able to claim Carer's Allowance if:
- the institution where you're studying describes your course as full-time
- your course is officially 21 hours or more a week, excluding breaks and lunch-time
If I study full-time, can I claim Carer's Allowance during holidays?
No, you'll still be treated as if you are in full-time education.
Who decides whether the hours I study on my own are a required part of the course?
Evidence from the school, college or university will be very important. However, you could argue you're able to complete the course in fewer hours than would normally be expected - for example, because you have some prior qualification or experience.
Some students have successfully appealed against decisions refusing them Carer's Allowance. If you would like to appeal, get further advice from a welfare benefits adviser.
Find out how to claim Carer's Allowance and how to challenge a Carer's Allowance decision.
Article provided by NHS Choices