Carer’s Allowance is the main benefit for carers. If you are looking after someone for 35 hours a week or more, you may be eligible.
You don’t have to be related to or live with the person you care for.
Carer's Allowance (CA) is paid at £62.10 a week (2015/16 rate). The amount paid is usually increased each April.
Carer’s Allowance is taxable. However, carers will only have to pay tax if they have other sources of taxable income such as an occupational pension or earnings. CA on its own is below the threshold for paying tax.
Carer’s Allowance is not means-tested – in other words not based on your income or savings – but earnings may affect your entitlement. It is not based on your National Insurance record.
Can I get Carer's Allowance?
Not every carer can get CA. You may be eligible if you meet all the following conditions:
- 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 earn £110 a week (after deductions) or less.
- You satisfy UK presence and residence conditions.
Here is more information about each of the conditions.
You look after someone who gets one of the following qualifying disability benefits.
- Disability Living Allowance (DLA) at either the middle or highest rate for personal care needs
- Attendance Allowance (at either rate) or Constant Attendance Allowance of the normal maximum rate paid with the Industrial Injuries or War Pensions schemes
- the daily living component of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) (at either rate)
You look after that person for at least 35 hours a week.
The 35 hours can include:
- time spent physically helping the person
- time you spend ‘keeping an eye’ on the person you look after, eg preventing them coming to harm by walking out of the house
- time spent doing practical tasks for them, eg cooking
- time taken doing practical tasks, even if you don’t do them in the presence of the person you are looking after may also count
- (for instance, if you look after someone who visits you regularly for the care they need, time spent preparing for the visit or cleaning up afterwards should count)
Time spent travelling to and from the person you care for does not count.
You must provide 35 hours of care for every week you claim CA. For CA, a week runs from Sunday to Saturday. You cannot average out your hours over a number of weeks.
You cannot add together the time you spend caring for different people to make up the 35 hours. If you care for more than one person, you must choose which person you claim for, as you can only get one payment of CA.
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 CA. 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 are caring.
However, if the person you care for is also caring for someone, you can both claim CA as long as you both meet all the criteria. This also applies if you are caring for each other.
You are aged 16 or over.
You can make a claim up to three months before your 16th birthday, although the benefit will only be paid from the day you become 16 years old.
You are not in full-time education.
The meaning of 'full-time education' is complicated and may depend on a number of factors including the type of course you are doing. The Department for Work and Pensions are likely to consider you course to be full-time if:
- your university or colllege describe the course as full-time
- you are required to do 21 hours a week or more of study
Carers Allowance is not paid during temporary absences from you course including holiday periods.
If you are studying or thinking about studying then you may wish to contact the Carers UK Adviceline for further advice.
You earn £110 a week (after deductions) or less.
If you are in paid work (including self-employment) you cannot get CA if you earn more than £110 a week.
The following amounts are deducted from your gross weekly earnings before your earnings are taken into account for CA:
- Income Tax
- National Insurance
- half your contributions towards an occupational/personal pension*
*For example, if you earn £120 per week (after tax and national insurance) you will not be entitled to Carer's Allowance. However, if you put £40 per week into a pension, half of the £40 can be deducted from your earnings. Your earnings for Carer's Allowance would therefore be £120 - £20 = £100 per week. As this is not over the earnings limit you could claim Carer’s Allowance.
If you are self-employed, you can also first deduct expenses that are incurred ‘wholly and exclusively for the purposes of the business’, in the same way that you can for income tax purposes.
If you have to pay for someone to look after the person you care for or a child under 16 while you are at work you can deduct those payments from your earnings up to the value of half your earnings (after the above deductions if they apply). However, this will not apply if the person you are paying is a close relative (a spouse, partner or civil partner, parent, son, daughter, brother or sister).
Occupational or personal pensions do not count as earnings and you can be paid CA in addition to these. However, if you get extra CA for your partner their occupational/personal pension could affect this extra amount.
Note: Some carers previously received extra benefit for their partner as part of their CA. This was called the adult dependant addition but is not available for new claims.
If you do receive taxable income such as occupational or private pensions or part-time earnings you should inform the tax office about your CA, because it is a taxable benefit.
You satisfy UK presence and residence conditions.
The presence and residence rules changed in April 2013 for new claimants. To satisfy the residence and presence tests you must now meet both the following conditions:
- You must have been present in Great Britain for 104 weeks out of the 156 weeks before claiming (2 out of the last 3 years).
- You must be habitually resident.
‘Present’ means physically present in the UK. Some people may be treated as being in the UK while abroad, eg members of the armed forces. Special rules apply to countries in the European Economic Area (EEA) and several others who Britain has agreements with. If you think this applies to you, you should seek advice.
The habitual residence test is a test to see if you normally live in the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands, the Republic of Ireland or the Isle of Man. The test will be applied if you have been living abroad. There is no legal definition of ‘habitual residence’. Relevant factors are where you normally live, where you expect to live in future, your reasons for coming to this country, the length of time spent abroad before you came here, and any ties you still have with the country where you have come from.
You cannot usually get CA if you have immigration restrictions on your stay in the UK (eg you are not allowed to claim public funds which include most welfare benefits and housing and homelessness services). If this is the case, seek advice before claiming because a claim for CA could affect your future right to remain in the UK.back to top
Carer’s Allowance and other benefits/ income
You cannot usually be paid CA if you receive one or more of the following benefits:
- Contribution-based ESA
- Incapacity Benefit
- Maternity Allowance
- Bereavement or widow’s benefits
- Severe Disablement Allowance
- Contribution-based JSA
- State Retirement Pension (see below)
However, if any of these are paid at less than the amount of CA, you could be paid a small amount of CA on top of the other benefit you get.
Although in most cases you cannot be paid CA if you get one of the benefits above, you will still have ‘underlying entitlement’ to CA if you meet all the conditions. This ‘underlying entitlement’ means that the carer premium or carer addition can be included in calculations for means-tested benefits.
State Retirement Pension
While there is no upper age limit for claiming CA, payment of CA usually stops when you reach retirement age because your State Retirement Pension will be paid instead. You will, however, have an ‘underlying entitlement’ to CA which means you could get the carer addition in your Pension Credit.
If your State Retirement Pension is less than the amount of CA paid, you may continue to get a small amount of CA in addition to your State Retirement Pension to make up the difference.
Although you could ask to carry on being paid CA instead of getting your State Retirement Pension straight away (ie you could defer your pension) you will not build up any extra pension during that time. It is always important to seek further advice before making any decisions.
If your partner is being paid a State Retirement Pension, and receives an extra amount for you, you can still claim CA (before you reach retirement age), but the amount your partner gets for you will be affected. If the amount of CA paid is higher than or equal to the amount your partner gets for you, then the addition will not be paid. If the CA amount is lower, you can be paid the difference through the ‘adult dependent addition’ of your partner’s pension.
The income of the person you care for
The carer premium is an extra amount of money included in the calculation of Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Council Tax Reduction (Rate Relief in Northern Ireland) and Housing Benefit. The carer addition is an equivalent amount paid with Pension Credit. The carer element is an equivalent amount paid with Universal Credit.
- For Income Support, income-related Employment and Support Allowance or income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, call the Jobcentre Plus contact centre on 0800 055 6688 (England,Wales and Scotland) or contact your local Jobs and Benefits Office (Northern Ireland).
- For Pension Credit, call the Pension Service on 0800 99 1234 (0808 100 6165 in Northern Ireland).
- For Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction, contact your local authority or for Rate Relief in Northern Ireland contact your local Jobs and Benefits Office.
Protecting your National Insurance record
Your National Insurance record is a summary of the National Insurance contributions paid through work, or credits awarded when you are unable to work. It is used to work out your entitlement to some state benefits, eg State Retirement Pension or contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
For each week that you receive CA you get a National Insurance Credit to help protect your record. Credits can also count towards Bereavement Benefits for your spouse or civil partner.
Carer’s Credit is a way of protecting pension rights for people who are caring for someone but are not in paid work and are unable to claim carers’ benefits. If you already get CA then you do not need to claim Carer’s Credit as your pension is already protected.
To claim the Carer’s Credit you need to be caring for one or more disabled person for a total of 20 hours or more a week. The disabled person must be getting at least one of the following:
- Attendance Allowance
- Constant Attendance Allowance
- the middle or highest rate of Disability Living Allowance care component
- the standard or enhanced rate of the daily living component of Personal Independence Payment
If the person you’re caring for doesn’t get one of these benefits, you may still be able to get Carer’s Credit. When you apply, fill in the Care Certificate part of the application form and get a health or social care professional to sign it.
To claim Carer’s Credit you need to apply to the CA Unit of the Department of Work and Pensions (England, Wales and Scotland) or the Disability and Carers Service (Northern Ireland).back to top
How to claim
England, Wales and Scotland
- The Department for Work and Pensions encourage online claims and say they are the quickest way of applying for Carer's Allowance. Visit www.gov.uk/carers-allowance/how-to-claim to apply online or to download a claim form. On the online claim form the person you are caring for no longer has to sign their consent – see note below for more information.
- Request a claim pack DS700 (or DS700(SP) if you are getting a State Retirement Pension) by calling the Carer’s Allowance Unit on 0345 608 4321 (text phone 0345 604 5312, calls from typetalk are also welcome).
Note: On the online claim form the person you are caring for no longer has to sign their consent. Instead, there is a disclaimer section where you declare that you have made/will make the person you are caring for aware of the potential consequences to their benefits (see the section ‘the income of the person you care for’). A notification will still be sent to the person you are caring for informing them that a CA claim has been made and the impact this may have on their benefits. Contact the Carers UK Adviceline if you need further advice.
- Request a claim pack from the CA Unit – call 028 9090 6186 (text phone 0845 604 5312, calls from typetalk are also welcome).
You could ask for help to complete the claim form from a local advice agency – to find out about advice agencies in your area, please contact the Carers UK Adviceline.
When to claim
You will receive a written decision on your claim that tells you whether you have been awarded CA and from what date.
Challenging the decision
If you are refused Carer’s Allowance, you can ask the Department for Work and Pensions to look at the decision again. You must do this before you appeal. This is called a mandatory reconsideration.
If you still disagree once they have done this you must lodge an appeal with HM Courts and Tribunals Service and attach a copy of the mandatory reconsideration notice with the appeal.
It is important to challenge a decision or get advice as quickly as possible because there are time limits that generally mean you must take action within one month. If you fall outside of this time limit then it may still be possible to challenge the decision. Contact Carers UK for further information.
Making a complaint
If you are unhappy with the way your claim has been dealt with, eg long delays or lost forms, in the first instance you should contact the CA Unit (England, Wales and Scotland) or the Disability and Carers Service (Northern Ireland).
If you’re unhappy with their response you’ll be asked if you want your complaint sent to the Director General of Operations for the Department for Work and Pensions. They aim to deal with complaints within 15 working days.
If you’re still unhappy, you can then ask the Independent Case Examiner to investigate – they’ll be impartial and this is free. If you’re unhappy with their response you can ask your MP to send your complaint to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman. Visit www.gov.uk/complain-disability for more information.back to top
Change of circumstances
If there is a change in your circumstances, it is important to report this as soon as possible to avoid any overpayment of benefit. You can report changes in circumstances by writing to or telephoning the Carer's Allowance Unit.
Taking a break
You can take a break from caring for up to 4 weeks in every 26 weeks and still be paid Carer's Allowance. You must have been providing 35 hours or more of care a week per week for at least 22 of the past 26 weeks. The person you have been caring for must have been in receipt of a qualifying benefit for that period.
Carer's Allowance will continue to be paid for up to 12 weeks if you go into hospital. You must have been providing 35 hours or more of care a week for at least 14 of the past 26 weeks. The person you care for must have been in receipt of a qualifying benefit for that period.
Note that Carer's Allowance will stop if your total breaks add up to more than 12 weeks in the past 26 weeks (this will include any periods when you were in hospital).
You can continue to be paid Carer's Allowance for up to 26 weeks whilst you are abroad if you meet all of the following conditions:
- you go abroad with the person you look after
- he/she continues to receive a qualifying disability benefit
- the purpose of your trip is to look after them
In any other circumstances you can continue to be paid Carer's Allowance for up to 4 weeks as long as you have not had more than 4 weeks break from caring in the last 26 weeks. You may have had up to a further 8 weeks break from caring in the last 26 weeks if the reason for the break was because you or the person you care for were in hospital.
If the person you look after goes into hospital
If the person you look after goes into hospital, you can continue to get Carer's Allowance for up to 12 weeks or until their disability benefit stops.
The disability benefit will stop after:
- 4 weeks in a NHS hospital if the person you look after is age 16 or over
- 12 weeks in a NHS hospital if the person is aged under 16
The carer premium or addition can continue to be paid for a further 8 weeks after your Carer's Allowance stops. If you are receiving Income Support as a carer, this will continue for 8 weeks after your Carer's Allowance stops.
If the person you care for moves into residential care, you will only be able to continue to claim Carer's Allowance if they continue to receive a qualifying disability benefit and you are still caring for them for at least 35 hours a week. Your Carer's Allowance will stop if you are no longer caring for them for at least 35 hours a week or their qualifying disability benefit stops.
The following benefits will usually stop after 4 weeks when someone moves into residential care:
- Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for personal care needs
- Personal Independence Payment (PIP) daily living component
- Attendance Allowance
However, there are certain circumstances when these benefits can continue, such as where the person is paying their own fees. To find out more contact the Carers UK Adviceline.
If your Carer's Allowance stops due the person you care for moving into residential care, you can continue to get the carer premium or addition paid with your means-tested benefits for 8 weeks after your Carer's Allowance stops. If you are receiving Income Support as a carer, this will continue for 8 weeks after your Carer's Allowance stops.
If the person you look after dies
You can usually continue to get Carer’s Allowance and the carer premium or addition for up to 8 weeks after the person you care for dies, as long as you continue to meet the earning, study, age and residence criteria.
The carer premium or addition can also continue to be paid for 8 weeks if you qualify for this because you had underlying entitlement. If you are receiving Income Support as a carer, this will continue for 8 weeks after your Carer’s Allowance stops.back to top