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 is paid at £61.35 a week (2014/15 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. Carer’s Allowance 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 Carer’s Allowance. 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 £100 a week (after deductions) or less. (Note: from May 2014 this will increase to £102.)
- 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 Carer’s Allowance. For Carer’s Allowance, 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 Carer’s Allowance.
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 Carer’s Allowance. 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 Carer’s Allowance 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. If you are studying or thinking about studying then contact the Carers UK Adviceline for further advice.
Carer’s Allowance is not paid during temporary absences from your course including holiday periods.
You earn £100 a week (after deductions) or less.
Note: from May 2014 this will increase to £102.
If you are in paid work (including self-employment) you cannot get Carer’s Allowance if you earn more than £100 a week.
The following amounts are deducted from your gross weekly earnings before your earnings are taken into account for Carer’s Allowance:
- Income Tax
- National Insurance
- half your contributions towards an occupational/personal pension
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 Carer’s Allowance in addition to these. However, if you get extra Carer’s Allowance 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 Carer’s Allowance. 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 Carer’s Allowance, 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 Carer’s Allowance 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 Carer’s Allowance could affect your future right to remain in the UK.
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Carer’s Allowance and other benefits/ income
You cannot usually be paid Carer’s Allowance 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 Carer’s Allowance, you could be paid a small amount of Carer’s Allowance on top of the other benefit you get.
Although in most cases you cannot be paid Carer’s Allowance if you get one of the benefits above, you will still have ‘underlying entitlement’ to Carer’s Allowance 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 Carer’s Allowance, payment of Carer’s Allowance usually stops when you reach retirement age because your State Retirement Pension will be paid instead. You will, however, have an ‘underlying entitlement’ to Carer’s Allowance which means you could get the carer addition in your Pension Credit.
If your State Retirement Pension is less than the amount of Carer’s Allowance paid, you may continue to get a small amount of Carer’s Allowance in addition to your State Retirement Pension to make up the difference.
Although you could ask to carry on being paid Carer’s Allowance 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 Carer’s Allowance (before you reach retirement age), but the amount your partner gets for you will be affected. If the amount of Carer’s Allowance paid is higher than or equal to the amount your partner gets for you, then the addition will not be paid. If the Carer’s Allowance 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
If you claim Carer’s Allowance the amount of means-tested benefit paid to the person you look after can sometimes be reduced.
For example, a person living on their own (or treated as living alone), or a person who is one of a couple who live alone and both get a qualifying disability benefit, would get the severe disability premium. (It is called the severe disability addition when paid as part of Pension Credit).
The severe disability premium (or addition) can only be paid to someone if no-one gets Carer’s Allowance for looking after them, so once Carer’s Allowance is paid to their carer, the severe disability premium or addition can no longer be paid.
If a couple qualifies for the severe disability premium/addition, they will be getting a double rate. If someone starts to receive Carer’s Allowance for caring for one of them, they will get a single rate of the premium/addition. If another person starts to receive Carer’s Allowance for caring for the other member of the couple, they will lose the premium/addition altogether.
Note that having underlying entitlement to Carer’s Allowance will not affect the benefits of the person you are looking after.
Work-focused interviews are not compulsory for Carer’s Allowance claimants.
However, if you also get other benefits such as Income Support, you may still have to attend a work-focused interview before the claim can be decided.
The interview is with a personal adviser who will discuss opportunities for work and training, and the help they can offer you with this. You do not have to take any action following suggestions made in the meeting, but if you fail to attend or participate in an interview, your benefit could be reduced. If you feel that a work-focused interview is inappropriate for you, eg because of the level of care you provide or because of your own health needs, you can ask for the interview to be deferred or waived.
If you are claiming Employment and Support Allowance, there are different rules about work-focused interviews. To find out more about this please contact the Carers UK Adviceline.
A new benefit called Universal Credit has started to be introduced in some areas, which carers will be able to claim. Universal Credit will replace certain benefits such as Income Support and Housing Benefit. Contact the Carers UK Adviceline to find out more about this.
Some groups of carers will be placed in the no work-related requirements group for Universal Credit. This means that they will not have to participate in work-related requirements and will not have to attend work related interviews. The groups are:
- carers who meet the conditions for entitlement to Carer’s Allowance
- carers who meet the conditions for entitlement to Carer’s Allowance except for the earnings rule
- carers with caring responsibilities for one or more severely disabled persons for at least 35 hours a week but who do not meet the conditions for entitlement to Carer’s Allowance when the Secretary of State is satisfied that it would be unreasonable to require the claimant to comply with work related requirements
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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 Carer’s Allowance 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 Carer’s Allowance 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 Carer’s Allowance Unit of the Department of Work and Pensions (England, Wales and Scotland) or the Disability and Carers Service (Northern Ireland).
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How to claim
England, Wales and Scotland
- Visit www.gov.uk/carers-allowance/how-to-claim to apply online or download a claim form. You can save your online claim so you don’t have to complete it all in one go. 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 0845 608 4321 (text phone 0845 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 Carer’s Allowance 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 Carer’s Allowance 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
If you claim Carer’s Allowance within three months of the person you care for getting a decision about their Disability Living Allowance (DLA), Attendance Allowance (AA) or Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Carer’s Allowance will be paid from the date these benefits were awarded (as long as you meet the conditions for the whole period).
Carer’s Allowance can be backdated for up to three months as long as you met the conditions for Carer’s Allowance throughout this period (although this can also depend on when the disability benefit was claimed). If you wish to claim backdated benefit, please state this on the claim form.
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You will receive a written decision on your claim that tells you whether you have been awarded Carer’s Allowance and from what date.
Challenging the decision
If you disagree with the decision you must ask the Department for Work and Pensions (England, Wales and Scotland) or the Social Security Agency (Northern Ireland) to look at the decision again. This is called a mandatory reconsideration. See page 17 for contact details.
There is usually a strict one month deadline for asking for a mandatory reconsideration so it is important to act as soon as possible.
If you disagree with the reconsidered decision you will need to lodge an appeal directly with HM Courts and Tribunals Service (England, Wales and Scotland) or the Appeals Service (Northern Ireland). Attach a copy of the mandatory reconsideration with the appeal.
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 Carer’s Allowance 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.
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The carer premium, the carer addition and the carer element
The carer premium is an extra amount of money included in the calculation of Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), income-related ESA, Council Tax Reduction (Rate Rebate in Northern Ireland) and Housing Benefit.
The carer addition is an equivalent amount paid with Pension Credit.
The carer premium and carer addition are both worth £34.20 from April 2014.
If you can’t get Carer’s Allowance because you are being paid another benefit that overlaps with it, you can still get the carer premium or addition if you have an underlying entitlement to Carer’s Allowance. An underlying entitlement means that you meet all the criteria for Carer’s Allowance but can’t be paid it. To be given underlying entitlement, you must still make a claim for Carer’s Allowance.
Under Universal Credit, there is a ‘carer element’ which you can get included in your Universal Credit claim if you care for a severely disabled person for at least 35 hours a week. An ‘element’ is an additional amount of money included in your Universal Credit calculation similar to the carer premium in Income Support or the carer addition in Pension Credit. You will get the carer element 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 per week
- you are aged 16 or over
- you are not in full-time education
- you satisfy UK presence and residence conditions
If you satisfy the conditions for claiming Carers Allowance or would do so but for the fact that your earnings are more than £100 a week (after deductions) you will be considered to be caring for a severely disabled person and will therefore have the carers element included in your Universal Credit award. You do not have to claim Carer’s Allowance to get this element.
If you are making a joint claim for Universal Credit, you and your partner/spouse can each get a carer element in your Universal Credit claim if you both qualify for it, but only if you are caring for different severely disabled people.
How to claim the carer premium, addition or element
If you already get Income Support, income-related ESA, Pension Credit, income-based JSA, Housing Benefit, Council Tax Reduction Scheme (which has replaced Council Tax Benefit) or Universal Credit, let the relevant department know that you have been awarded Carer’s Allowance (or have underlying entitlement) – their contact details should be on any letters they have sent you. The carer premium, addition or element should then be added.
To make a new claim:
- For Income Support, income-related ESA or income-based JSA, call the Jobcentre Plus contact centre on 0800 055 6688.
- For Universal Credit, you will be able to apply online at GOV.UK. Universal Credit is being gradually introduced throughout the UK from October 2013. If you are unsure whether you should be claiming one of the benefits above or Universal Credit contact the Jobcentre Plus contact centre on 0800 055 6688.
- For Pension Credit, call the Pension Service on 0800 99 1234 (0808 100 6165 in Northern Ireland).
- For Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction Scheme, contact your local authority.
- All of these claims should include a question about whether you get Carer’s Allowance. For more information about any of these benefits contact the Carers UK Adviceline.
Income Support can only usually be backdated for up to 1 month in certain circumstances, or up to three months in some cases. However, if you are already getting Income Support, the carer premium can be backdated to when your Carer’s Allowance begins, or to when your Income Support started if this is later.
Pension Credit can be backdated for three months. Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction (or Rate Relief in Northern Ireland) can be backdated for up to 3 months in some circumstances or 6 months in some cases. However, if you are already getting one of these benefits, the carer premium or addition can be backdated to when your Carer’s Allowance begins, or to when your other benefit started if this is later.
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Change of circumstances
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: 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 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 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 the person you care for dies, you can continue to receive the carer element as part of your Universal Credit for the rest of the assessment period you are in when the person dies, and the following two assessment periods. An assessment period is one calendar month starting from the date you made your claim for Universal Credit.
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