Knowing what benefits you and the person you care for are entitled to can make a real difference.
For example, you might be able to get a break from caring, or get help with pay for certain costs, or make a difference to your pension entitlements in the future.
There are three main types of benefits:
- benefits if you're not in paid employment - "earnings replacement benefits"
- benefits that help pay for extra costs, such as those relating to disability or having a child
- benefits and tax credits that top up low income if you're in work - "means-tested benefits"
Carer's Allowance, an earnings replacement benefit, is the main benefit for carers. You may be eligible if you are looking after someone for 35 hours a week or more.
Your step-by-step guide to carers' benefits
You may be entitled to only one benefit or a combination of all three types. To work out which benefits you're entitled to, follow the steps below:
Step 1 - check earnings replacement benefits
Carer's Allowance is one of the earnings replacement benefits. Check if you're entitled to Carer's Allowance or another earnings replacement benefit - you could use the online benefits adviser. If you're entitled to more than one of these benefits, the one that offers the highest amount of money will be paid.
If you are over pension age and retired, you will be eligible for the State Pension. Between 2010 and 2020, the State Pension age for women will move gradually from 60 to 65. You can check your retirement age on GOV.UK. Most people who receive the State Pension automatically qualify for the Winter Fuel Payment as well.
Usually, you will not be able to receive Carer's Allowance once you receive your State Pension. However, you will still have an "underlying entitlement" to it, and this can help you qualify for other means-tested benefits and related payments such as the carer premium.
The carer premium is a payment included in the calculation of any means-tested benefits you get if you're also paid Carer's Allowance or have an underlying entitlement to it.
The exact amount you receive depends on your financial situation. Not everyone will receive the full amount.
Find out what the other earnings replacement benefits are.
Step 2 - check for benefits that can help with extra costs
Many carers not only look after someone, but are ill themselves. If you're aged 16 to 64 and have a long-term illness or disability, you could be entitled to Personal Independence Payment (PIP), or Attendance Allowance (AA) if you're 65 or over.
PIP helps with some of the extra costs caused by long-term ill health or a disability. AA is paid if you're severely disabled and need help with personal care.
If you have children, Child Benefit should also be paid, and if your child is disabled, you can claim Disability Living Allowance on their behalf until they turn 16.
These benefits can be paid in addition to any earnings replacement benefit.
Step 3 - check for means-tested benefits
Check if you're entitled to any means-tested benefits or tax credits using the online benefits adviser. Means-tested benefits - sometimes called top-up benefits because they "top up" your income - can be paid in addition to other benefits you might also be getting.
The main means-tested benefits you may be eligible for are:
- Income Support - this is paid to some people who are below the qualifying age for the Guarantee Credit part of Pension Credit, who are on a low income, and don't have to sign on as being unemployed, such as carers or single parents.
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance - this is a new benefit paid to people under 65 who have a limited capacity for work because of ill health or a disability. It can also help with the interest-only part of your mortgage payments.
- Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance - this is paid to people who are actively seeking work. It can also help with some mortgage payments.
- Pension Credit - this has two parts: the Guarantee Credit, which is paid to people who have reached the qualifying age to top up their income, and the Savings Credit, which is paid to people aged 65 and over and rewards them for having some savings. Pension Credit can also help with some mortgage payments.
- Universal Credit
If you're entitled to more than one, call Carers Direct on 0300 123 1053, or contact the Citizens Advice Bureau to get advice on which will pay you the most.
Universal Credit is a new benefit designed to give financial assistance to people who want to work. It provides support for housing costs, children, childcare costs, disabled people and carers. It is gradually replacing:
- income-based Jobseeker's Allowance
- income-related Employment Support Allowance
- Income Support
- Child Tax Credit
- Working Tax Credit
- Housing Benefit
Universal Credit will be available for claimants who are in work and on low incomes, as well as for those who are out of work. This means there is ongoing support if you're moving in and out of work - Universal Credit support doesn't suddenly stop during the critical period when you start a new job or increase your part-time hours.
Additional means-tested benefits
In addition to one of the means-tested benefits, you may also be eligible for:
- Housing Benefit, which is paid to people who pay rent and have a low income
- a Cold Weather payment between the months of November and February
- disability premiums if you are ill or disabled
Disability premium is an extra amount automatically added to your Income Support if you qualify for it. The person you care for might get more if they qualify for the extra parts of the disability premium, such as severe disability premium.
However, if you are paid Carer's Allowance, the person you look after will lose their eligibility for the severe disability premium.
Find out more on GOV.UK: eligibility for disability premium.
Learn more about claiming income-related benefits.
Other earnings replacement benefits
You can claim certain benefits if you were looking after someone who has died. Bereavement benefits are not means-tested, but they will be taken into account as income if you claim any means-tested benefits.
Bereavement Payment is a one-off, tax-free lump sum payment of £2,000 paid in some circumstances on the death of your spouse or civil partner.
Find out more on GOV.UK: Bereavement Payment.
Bereavement Allowance is a regular taxable payment made if you were aged 45 or over when your spouse or civil partner died. It is payable for 52 weeks. The amount you're paid relates to your age when your spouse or civil partner died. It is only payable up to State Pension age and will be reduced if your spouse or civil partner's National Insurance contribution record was incomplete.
Read more on GOV.UK: Bereavement Allowance.
Widowed Parent's Allowance
Widowed Parent's Allowance is a regular taxable payment for men or women under pension age who have been bereaved and have dependent children (or, in the case of women, if they're pregnant).
If your spouse or civil partner met the National Insurance contributions conditions, the full rate is payable. If not, you receive a proportion of the allowance, unless they died of an industrial injury or disease.
You cannot be paid Widowed Parent's Allowance and Bereavement Allowance at the same time. A Bereavement Payment can be paid in addition to Widowed Parent's Allowance or Bereavement Allowance.
To claim a bereavement benefit, ask for the appropriate claim form from any Department for Work and Pensions or Jobcentre Plus office.
Find out more on GOV.UK: Widowed Parent's Allowance.
Bereavement and benefits after pension age
Widowed Parent's Allowance and Bereavement Allowance cannot be paid after State Pension age. When you reach State Pension age, if you haven't remarried or formed a civil partnership, you'll be entitled to a pension as long as your late spouse or civil partner satisfied the National Insurance contributions, or died as a result of an industrial injury or disease.
You could qualify for a pension based on both your own National Insurance contributions record and your spouse or civil partner's record, if that would give you a higher State Pension. For further details, contact the Pension Service on 0800 731 7898.
The official online source of government information on benefits is GOV.UK.
Contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance and Jobseeker's Allowance
Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) is a benefit for people whose ability to work is limited by the effects of ill health or disability. Contributory ESA is payable if you've paid enough National Insurance (NI) contributions in a set period.
You will only receive ESA if you are deemed to have limited capability for work. During the first 13 weeks of your claim, you'll have a Work Capability Assessment. This assessment decides if you have limited capability for work and can qualify for ESA, or if you should claim Jobseeker's Allowance or another appropriate benefit.
Find out more on GOV.UK: employment and support allowance - what you'll get.
Article provided by NHS Choices