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Benefits for carers who are working age

If you are a carer of working age, there may be benefits you can claim in addition to (or instead of) Carer's Allowance.


This information applies to people living in England, Wales, Scotland & Northern Ireland.


If you are a carer who is unable to work because of your caring responsibilities you could be entitled to Income Support.

If you as a carer, or your partner, are unable to work because of your own health conditions you could be entitled to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

If you are a carer who is looking for work you could be entitled to Jobseekers Allowance (JSA).

If you or your partner have a choice over which benefits to claim it is a good idea to get a benefit check, as one benefit might be better financially than another, depending on your circumstances. Contact the Carers UK Adviceline for further information on any of these benefits and for a benefit check.

Note: In certain parts of the country working age people will have to claim Universal Credit instead of many of the benefits listed below, however most carers are not yet affected by this. For further information see the Universal Credit section of our website.


Income Support

Who can claim Income Support?

You could be entitled to claim Income Support if you meet all of the following conditions:

  • You must be 16 or over and under state pension credit age.
  • You must be in one of the categories of people who can claim Income Support (see below).
  • You must not be claiming Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), and if you have a partner they must not be claiming income-based JSA or income-related ESA.
  • You (and any partner) must have income below your ‘applicable amount’ and must not have capital of over £16,000 (see below).
  • You must not be in full-time education, although there are some exceptions to this.
  • You must not be working 16 or more hours per week, and if you have a partner they must not be working 24 or more hours per week, although there are some exceptions to this, one of which is specifically for carers.
  • You must meet the residence and presence conditions.

Note: ‘State pension credit age’ for a woman is the age she would reach state pension age and for a man is the age he would reach state pension age if he was a woman. You can see whether you or your partner are state pension credit age here.

Categories of people who can claim Income Support

One of the categories of people who can claim Income Support is carers. You will be considered to be a carer if you are:

  • Claiming Carer’s Allowance; or
  • Not claiming Carer’s Allowance but ‘regularly and substantially’ caring for someone who receives a qualifying disability benefit ; or
  • Not claiming Carer’s Allowance but ‘regularly and substantially’ caring for someone who has put in a claim for a qualifying disability benefit. You can claim Income Support on this basis for up to six months, or until the claim for the qualifying disability benefit has been decided (whichever is sooner).

Note: A ‘qualifying disability benefit’ includes the middle or the higher rate of the care component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA), either rate of the daily living component of Personal Independence Payment (PIP), or either rate of Attendance Allowance.

Income and capital

Income Support is a means-tested benefit which means it depends on your (and any partner’s) income and capital. It works by topping up your income to your ‘applicable amount’.

Your ‘applicable amount’ is worked out by adding your personal allowance to any relevant premiums.

The personal allowance for a single person over 25 is £73.10 per week and for a couple who are both over 18 is £114.85 per week. There are other personal allowance amounts if you do not fit into one of these categories.

There are certain premiums that can be added onto your personal allowance:

  • The carer premium is £34.60 per week and can be included if you or your partner are receiving Carer’s Allowance or the underlying entitlement to Carer’s Allowance.
  • The disability premium is £32.25 per week for a single person and £45.95 per week for a couple and can be included if you or your partner are receiving DLA, PIP or Attendance Allowance.
  • The enhanced disability premium is £15.75 per week for a single person and £22.60 per week for a couple and can be included if you or your partner are receiving the higher rate of the care component of DLA, the enhanced rate of the daily living component of PIP or the higher rate of Attendance Allowance.
  • The severe disability premium is £61.85 per week for each person who qualifies and can be included if you (and your partner if you have one) receive a qualifying disability benefit, live alone (there are exceptions to this rule), and if no one is paid Carer’s Allowance for looking after you.

Most income you (and any partner) receive is taken into account such as earnings (although generally the first £20 is disregarded); other benefits and tax credits; personal pensions etc. However some income is disregarded including DLA; PIP; Attendance Allowance; Child Benefit and any Child Maintenance you receive.

If you (and any partner) have capital (not including the home you live in) of over £6,000, £1 per week is taken into account as income for every £250 (or part of £250) you have over £6,000. This is called ‘tariff income’. If you have over £16,000 in capital then you will not be entitled to Income Support.


Example

Adriana is a single carer over 25 who receives Carer’s Allowance and has £10,000 in capital.

‘Applicable amount’: personal allowance (£73.10) + carer premium (£34.60) = £107.70 per week.

Income: Carer’s Allowance (£61.85 per week) + ‘tariff income’ (£16) = £77.85 per week.

‘Applicable amount’ (£107.70) – income (£77.85) = £29.85 per week Income Support.


If I claim Income Support will I have to go to work focused interviews (WFI) or undertake work related activity (WRA)?

If you are claiming Income Support as a carer you will have to go to some WFI but will not have to take part in any WRA.

For further information on WFI and WRA you can view the WFI/WRA section of our website.

How do I claim Income Support and report a change in my circumstances?

In England, Wales and Scotland you can phone the Jobcentre Plus on 0800 055 6688 or you can download a claim form online.

In Northern Ireland you can contact your local Social Security or Jobs & Benefits office. For further information contact Carers Northern Ireland.

You can sometimes ask for Income Support to be backdated. For further information contact the Carers UK Adviceline.

If there is a change in your circumstances you must notify the relevant benefit department. In England, Wales and Scotland this is the Jobcentre Plus (0345 608 8545) and in Northern Ireland this is your local Social Security or Jobs & Benefits office.

What happens if I disagree with an Income Support decision?

If you disagree with an Income Support decision you can challenge the decision. You have to do this within one month of the date on the decision letter (although if you are outside of this time limit it might still be possible so seek advice). For further information on challenging a decision you can view our challenging a benefit decision webpage.

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Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

ESA has replaced all previous sickness benefits such as Income Support due to illness, Incapacity Benefit and Severe Disablement Allowance. Most people who were claiming one of these benefits will have been transferred over to ESA by now, but there are still some people waiting to be transferred.

This information focuses on people making a new claim for ESA, however if you or your partner are being transferred over to ESA from one of the above benefits contact the Carers UK Adviceline for further information.

Who can claim ESA?

You as a carer (or your partner) could be entitled to claim ESA if you meet all of the following conditions:

  • You must be 16 or over and under state pension age.
  • You must meet the extra conditions for income-related ESA or for contributory ESA (see below).
  • You must have a limited capability for work (see below).
  • You must not be claiming Income Support, Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) or Statutory Sick Pay.
  • You must not be working (paid or unpaid), although there are some exceptions to this.
  • You must meet the residence and presence conditions.

What are the extra conditions for income-related ESA or contributory ESA?

There are two types of ESA: income-related ESA and contributory ESA.

If you are entitled to contributory ESA you can still apply for an income-related ESA top up if your (and any partners) income and capital is below a certain amount. The contributory ESA would count as ‘income’ when they are working out whether you are entitled to income-related ESA.


The extra conditions for income-related ESA

Income-related ESA depends on your circumstances and that of any partner. The extra conditions for income-related ESA are that:

  • You (and any partner) must have income below your ‘applicable amount’ and must not have capital of over £16,000.
  • If you have a partner they must not be claiming Income Support or income-based JSA.
  • You must not be in certain type of education, although there are some exceptions to this.
  • If you have a partner they must not be working 24 or more hours per week, although there are some exceptions to this.

Note: Income-related ESA works by topping up your income to your ‘applicable amount’. The rules are similar to that of Income Support (see above) however there is no disability premium and there is a work related activity component which is £29.05 per week and can be included if you are placed in the work related activity group and a support component which is £36.20 per week and can be included if you are placed in the support group. The work related activity component and the support component would not be included until you have gone through the work capability assessment (WCA) and will be backdated to week 14 of your claim.


The extra conditions for contributory ESA

Contributory ESA is a claim just for you (even if you have a partner) and is based on your national insurance (NI) contribution record. Your or any partner’s income and capital will not affect the claim, except if you have an occupational or private pension of over £85 a week or a councillor’s allowance of over £40 a week.

It has two contribution conditions:

The first condition is that you must have paid, or be treated as having paid, at least 26 weeks of Class 1 or Class 2 NI contributions on earnings at the lower earnings limit in one of the last two complete tax years before the start of the relevant benefit year. However an exception to this rule for contributory ESA is that if you were entitled to Carer’s Allowance for at least one week in the last complete tax year before the start of the relevant benefit year, you will satisfy the first contribution condition if you have paid, or can be treated as having paid, sufficient NI contributions in any complete tax year.

The second condition is that you must have paid or been credited with Class 1 or Class 2 NI contributions on earnings 50 times the lower earnings limit in each of the last two complete tax years before the start of the relevant benefit year.

Note: A ‘tax year’ runs from 6th April to 5th April the following year. A ‘benefit year’ starts on the first Sunday in January and ends on the Saturday before the first Sunday in January the following year.

For the first 13 weeks of your claim you will get a personal allowance which is £73.10 per week if you are over 25. Once you have been through the work capability assessment (WCA) your contributory ESA will increase by £29.05 per week if you are placed in the work related activity group or £36.20 per week if you are placed in the support group. This extra amount will be backdated to week 14 of your claim.

If you are placed in the work related activity group your contributory ESA will stop after 12 months (from the date of your initial claim). If you are placed in the support group there is no time limit on your contributory ESA.


Having a limited capability for work

For the first 13 weeks of your claim you will be treated as if you have a limited capability for work if you keep sending in medical certificates from your GP.

After 13 weeks (although it is sometimes longer than this) you would go through the work capability assessment (WCA). Once you have been through the WCA you can stop sending in medical certificates from your GP.

The WCA determines whether:

  • You are fit for work (in which case your ESA would stop – seek advice if this happens); or
  • You have a limited capability for work (in which case you will be placed in the work related activity group); or
  • You have a limited capability for work related activity (in which case you will be placed in the support group).

The WCA involves a questionnaire and normally a face to face assessment. You have to score at least 15 points in the WCA to be considered to have a limited capability for work (and be placed in the work related activity group), and you have to meet one of the limited capability for work related activity descriptors to be placed in the support group (it is harder to get into the support group than the work related activity group).

Disability Rights UK has a factsheet which goes into more detail about the WCA. You can view this factsheet here.

If I claim ESA will I have to go to work focused interviews (WFI) or undertake work related activity (WRA)?

If you are claiming ESA and are in the work related activity group you will have to go to some WFI and might have to undertake some WRA. If you are claiming ESA in the support group you will not have to go to any WFI and will not have to undertake any WRA.

For further information on WFI and WRA you can view the WFI/WRA section of our website.

How do I claim ESA and report a change in my circumstances?

In England, Wales and Scotland you can phone the Jobcentre Plus on 0800 055 6688 or you can download a claim form online.

In Northern Ireland you can contact your local Social Security or Jobs & Benefits office. For further information contact Carers Northern Ireland.

You can ask for ESA to be backdated for up to three months.

If there is a change in your circumstances you must notify the relevant benefit department. In England, Wales and Scotland this is the Jobcentre Plus (0345 608 8545) and in Northern Ireland this is your local Social Security or Jobs & Benefits office.

Terminal illness and special rules

If you have a terminal illness, special rules apply for your ESA claim. Special rules apply where death can reasonably be expected within six months.

Once you have made your claim the DWP will normally contact a medical professional to confirm that you are terminally ill (or if you have been given a form called the DS1500 from a medical professional send this to the DWP as they can use this to confirm that you are terminally ill). Once the DWP have confirmed that you are terminally ill they will automatically place you into the support group and you can receive the support component from the start of your ESA claim.

What happens if I disagree with an ESA decision?

If you disagree with an ESA decision you can challenge the decision. You have to do this within one month of the date on the decision letter (although if you are outside of this time limit it might still be possible so seek advice). For further information on challenging a decision you can view our challenging a benefit decision webpage.

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Jobseekers Allowance (JSA)

Who can claim JSA?

You could be entitled to claim JSA if you meet all of the following conditions:

  • You must be 18 or over and under state pension age (although some 16 and 17 year olds might be able to claim).
  • You must meet the extra conditions for income-based JSA or for contribution-based JSA (see below).
  • You must satisfy the ‘jobseeking conditions’ (see below).
  • You must not be claiming Income Support or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
  • You must not be in certain types of education, although there are some exceptions to this.
  • You must not be working 16 hours or more per week, although there are some exceptions to this.
  • You must meet the residence and presence conditions.

What are the extra conditions for income-based JSA or contribution-based JSA?

There are two types of JSA: income-based JSA and contribution-based JSA.

If you are entitled to contribution-based JSA you can still apply for an income-based JSA top up if your (and any partners) income and capital is below a certain amount. The contribution-based JSA would count as ‘income’ when they are working out whether you are entitled to income-based JSA.


The extra conditions for income-based JSA

Income-based JSA depends on your circumstance and that of any partner. The extra conditions for income-based JSA are that:

  • You (and any partner) must have income below your ‘applicable amount’ and must not have capital of over £16,000.
  • If you have a partner they must not be claiming Income Support or income-related ESA.
  • If you have a partner they must not be working 24 hours or more per week, although there are some exceptions to this.

Note: Income-based JSA works by topping up your income to your ‘applicable amount’. The rules are the same as that of Income Support (see above).


The extra conditions for contribution-based JSA

Contribution-based JSA is a claim just for you (even if you have a partner) and is based on your NI contribution record. Your or any partner’s income and capital will not affect the claim, except if you have any earnings or an occupational or private pension.

It has two contribution conditions which are similar to that of contributory ESA, however the exception for carers for the first contribution condition is different for contribution-based JSA.

The exception for carers for contribution-based JSA is that there is a special rule for carers which means that the ‘relevant benefit year’ for working out whether you meet the contribution conditions can sometimes be the year your Carer’s Allowance began, if you claim contribution-based JSA within 12 weeks of a Carer’s Allowance claim ending. This means that you might be able to claim contribution-based JSA based on years you were working before you became a carer.

Your contribution-based JSA will stop after six months.


The ‘jobseeking conditions’

To claim JSA you must be available for and actively seeking work and you will have to sign on regularly to prove this. However, you may be able to restrict the number of hours you are available for work to fit around your caring role, but not to less than 16 hours.

How do I claim JSA and report a change in my circumstances?

In England, Wales and Scotland you can phone the Jobcentre Plus on 0800 055 6688 or you can apply online.

In Northern Ireland you can contact your local Social Security or Jobs & Benefits office. For further information contact Carers Northern Ireland.

You can sometimes ask for JSA to be backdated. For further information contact the Carers UK Adviceline.

If there is a change in your circumstances you must notify the relevant benefit department. In England, Wales and Scotland this is the Jobcentre Plus (0345 608 8545) and in Northern Ireland this is your local Social Security or Jobs & Benefits office.

What happens if I disagree with a JSA decision?

If you disagree with a JSA decision you can challenge the decision. You have to do this within one month of the date on the decision letter (although if you are outside of this time limit it might still be possible so seek advice). For further information on challenging a decision you can view our challenging a benefit decision webpage.

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