Carers Allowance and Carers Credit

Carers Allowance
Carers Credit

Carers Allowance

The main benefit for carers is called carer’s allowance. Many carers can claim this if they meet certain criteria but some full time carers find they are not able to claim because of other income or benefits they are getting. Carer’s allowance is not means tested which means that any savings and most income that you and your partner get will not affect entitlement to carer’s allowance. However there are some types of income that will affect your entitlement.

  • if you are getting certain other benefits, including state retirement pension, this will affect your entitlement
  • your earnings over a certain amount will also affect whether you can get carer’s allowance (your partners earnings will not affect your entitlement to carer’s allowance)

If you are thinking of reducing your hours or stopping work completely and would be reliant on carer’s allowance, you will probably want to talk things through before making decisions.

When you reach state retirement age, entitlement to carer’s allowance becomes rather more complicated and many carers find that where they were previously eligible to be paid carer’s allowance, they no longer are.

Key facts about Carers Allowance
What is a qualifying benefit?
How much is Carers Allowance?
How many hours do I need to be caring for?
Can I work and claim Carers Allowance?
What is the carers premium, carers addition and carers element?
What if I am over state retirement pension age?
Will an occupational or personal pension affect my Carers Allowance?
Can I claim any other benefits?
I have been told I can’t get paid Carers Allowance as it overlaps with another benefit I get. What does this mean?
How will it affect other benefits that you may already be claiming?
What about the benefits of the person you care for?
What happens if I need a break?
What about hospital stays and residential care?
Something has changed, what should I do?
How to claim
Other frequently asked questions

Key facts about Carers Allowance

  • the person you care for must be getting a qualifying benefit
  • you need to be providing care for at least 35 hours per week. If you provide fewer hours of care, you may be able to claim Carers Credit.
  • when you are paid carer’s allowance you will get a class one national insurance credit paid each week. This helps protect your state pension and can help towards claiming other benefits.
  • you can only earn up to £116 after tax and some expenses.
  • sometimes but not always claiming carer’s allowance may reduce the benefits of the person you care for
  • you need to be aged over 16
  • you cannot be in full time education
  • you usually need to have lived in the UK for 2 out of the last 3 years and have no restrictions on claiming benefits. If you have moved to the UK and wish to claim benefits it is best to get expert advice.
  • it is not means tested but your earnings may affect entitlement

What is a qualifying benefit?

The person you care for needs to be getting one of the following benefits:

  • Disability Living Allowance (DLA) (middle or high rate care)
  • Personal Independence Payment (PIP) daily living component at either rate
  • Attendance Allowance
  • Constant Attendance Allowance
  • Armed Forces Independence Payment

How much is carer’s allowance?

Carer’s allowance is £62.70 a week (2017/2018 rate). It is not means tested so other income and savings do not prevent you from getting it. However, if you are working you can only earn up to £116 per week and still get carer’s allowance. It is taxable, but you would only be taxed if you had other income in addition to carer’s allowance.

How many hours do I need to be caring for?

You need to be caring for 35 hours a week for one person. If you care for more than one person you can’t add the hours together to make 35. The 35 hours can include:

  • time spent physically helping the person you care e.g. helping them wash, dress or move around
  • keeping an eye on someone to make sure they are safe
  • provide emotional support, encouragement and prompting
  • doing practical tasks like cooking and cleaning, taking them to appointments and doing the shopping

Can I work and claim carer’s allowance? 

You can do some work whilst claiming carer’s allowance but you can only earn up to £116 a week after tax, national insurance contributions and half of any pension contributions have been taken into account. If because of your work you pay someone else (other than a close relative) to look after the person you care for or your children, you may be able to deduct some of this from your earnings to get below the £116 limit. There is more detailed information about working whilst claiming Carers Allowance from Carers UK.

You can be employed or self-employed and claim carer’s allowance. Make sure you keep all your wage slips and accounts, including expenses if you are self-employed. The Carers Allowance Unit will probably want to see evidence of your earnings and any relevant payments. In some cases, for example, when your earnings vary they may want to see details on an on going basis.

Always tell the Carers Allowance Unit about any changes in employment and earnings to avoid overpayments.

What is the carers premium, carers addition and carers element?

If you get a means tested benefit (like income based jobseekers allowance, income related employment and support allowance, income support, universal credit or housing benefit) and are awarded carer’s allowance, you will get a ‘carer premium’ included in your means tested benefit – this is extra money. If you get pension credit this is called a ‘carer addition’. If you are getting universal credit it is called a ‘carer’s element’. See the following sections for examples.

What if I am over state retirement pension age?

If you are getting a state retirement pension you can claim carer’s allowance. However, if your state pension pays more than carer’s allowance, you cannot actually get paid carer’s allowance. It can still be worth claiming carer’s allowance as by doing so you will have what’s called an ‘underlying entitlement’.

An underlying entitlement to a benefit means that you whilst you satisfy the criteria for the benefit you cannot actually be paid it. In the case of carer’s allowance, you may not be paid it if you are getting certain other benefits, as benefit rules state that you cannot get paid both at the same time. (This is known as the overlapping benefit rules).

The advantage of having this ‘underlying entitlement’ is that other means tested benefits that you are entitled to, for example pension credit, may increase. Or it may mean that you become entitled to a means tested benefit for the first time as something called a ‘carer’s addition’ (this is extra money paid because you care for someone and get Carers Allowance) is included in the calculation.

For example:

Mark and his wife both get their state retirement pension. They had applied for pension credit in the past but had slightly too much income to qualify. When his wife became ill, Mark looked into claiming carer’s allowance. He was disappointed that he could not get paid carer’s allowance as his state retirement pension pays more than carer’s allowance. However, he found out that it was still worth making a claim as he would then have an underlying entitlement. This meant he could now get pension credit as a carers addition would be included in the calculation for this.

If you only get a state retirement pension it is worth checking entitlement to carer’s allowance and pension credit. A good rule to follow is, if there are changes, for example you are awarded a new benefit or your income changes, get a benefit check done.

Will an occupational or personal pension affect my Carers Allowance?

Your occupational or personal pension will not be treated as earned income for the purposes of your carer’s allowance claim and so will not be taken into account. However your occupational or personal pension will be taken into account in the calculation of any entitlement to a means tested benefit like pension credit.

Can I claim any other benefits?

You may be able to claim other benefits in addition to carer’s allowance. The Carers Trust has produced some information about this.

Claiming carer’s allowance may help you get extra money with your other benefit payments. If you get carer’s allowance you might be able to get a carer premium in jobseeker’s allowance, income support and employment and support allowance, a ‘carer addition’ in pension credit, or a ‘carer element’ in universal credit. You may also be able to get more housing benefit. If you claim a means tested benefit you may also get help with you mortgage payments.

At Carers Support Centre we have had contact with several carers who have missed out on claiming income support as they didn’t realise they could get this as well as carer’s allowance. If you only get carer’s allowance and have savings below £16,000 it is always worth checking entitlement to means tested benefits.

For example:

Mustafa had to give up work to care for his wife. He claimed carer’s allowance when she was awarded personal independence payment but was really struggling to manage financially, particularly with mortgage payments. He later found out he could get income support which included an amount towards his mortgage.

I have been told I can’t get paid carer’s allowance as it overlaps with another benefit I get. What does this mean?

Some people may be getting a benefit that ‘overlaps’ with carer’s allowance. This means that they can’t usually get both but could have an ‘underlying entitlement’ to carer’s allowance which could increase means tested benefits.

For example:

Jenny was caring for her mother and became unwell herself. The pressure of caring and trying to carry on working when she was ill understandably became too much. She claimed contribution based employment and support allowance (CB ESA), and when she contacted us, we suggested that she claim carer’s allowance. She was a bit puzzled when told that she wouldn’t get paid carer’s allowance, but was really pleased to find out that because she would have an underlying entitlement she could now get income related employment and support allowance (IR ESA) paid with her CB ESA. This is because the carer premium could now be included, which increased the amount that she was entitled to. This entitlement to IR ESA also meant that she was automatically entitled to help with health costs, so could get free prescriptions, free dental care and free eye tests.

Carers UK has a factsheet with a list of overlapping benefits and more about how this works.

If you pay rent, check whether you can get housing benefit. If you pay council tax, check whether you can get any help with this. If you get a means tested benefit it can also mean that you get help with things like free prescriptions and dental care too.

The golden rule is to always get a benefit check done. You can do an online benefit check on the Turn 2 Us website or contact your local advice centre.

How will it affect other benefits that you may already be claiming?

If you already get a means tested benefit and then claim carer’s allowance your means tested benefit may be reduced. However overall, people are usually better off.

What about the benefits of the person you care for?

If the person you care for gets something called the severe disability premium, (severe disability element with universal credit or severe disability addition with pension credit) paid with their means tested benefits, this would usually stop if someone claims carer’s allowance for them. If you only have the ‘underlying entitlement’ to carer’s allowance but are not actually getting paid it because of the overlapping benefit rules the person may still be able to get this extra money and you may be able to get a carer premium or addition with your means tested benefit.

For example:

Helen cares for her son who lives alone. She claimed carer’s allowance but could not be paid it as her state pension is worth more than carer’s allowance. However, as she is not actually getting paid carer’s allowance, her son could carry on getting his severe disability premium with his employment and support allowance. It also meant that Helen could get a carers addition paid with her pension credit.

The rules are a bit different for universal credit. If you get the carer element, the person you care for will lose the severe disability payment with their means tested benefit, even if you are not being paid carer’s allowance.

If you are not sure if the person you care for gets this or are unsure how this rule may affect you and them, it is important to check. Get advice before making a claim for carer’s allowance.

What happens if I need a break? 

You can take a break for up to 4 weeks in every 26 weeks and still get paid carer’s allowance. This can be taken as a series of short breaks or taken as one longer break. To meet this rule new carers will need to have been providing at least 35 hours of care for at least 22 weeks out of the past 26 weeks. The person you care for will need to have been getting a qualifying benefit for that period too.

What about hospital stays and residential care?

If you, the carer, go into hospital carer’s allowance can continue to be paid for 12 weeks. However, if you have had a recent break from caring before going into hospital, seek advice as it may stop sooner.

If the person you care for goes into hospital your carer’s allowance will usually stop after 4 weeks as this is when personal independence payment, attendance allowance and disability living allowance ends. There are a few circumstances where carer’s allowance could continue for 12 weeks e.g. if the person you care for is getting armed forces independence payments which continues whilst in hospital.

If the person  you care for is under 18 when they go into hospital their disability living allowance can continue indefinitely; and as long as you continue to meet the qualifying criteria for carer’s allowance, including still providing 35 hours of care a week, carer’s allowance can also continue. If you get other means tested benefits they could be affected so it’s important to check the rules.

If the person you care for goes into residential care, carer’s allowance will often stop. However, there are some circumstances when you can continue to get it. If your child is in a residential care home (including a residential school) and this is funded by the local authority, carer’s allowance would stop for the days your child is away from home, but you may get carer’s allowance for the days your child is living with you as long as you meet the criteria.

Carers UK has  more information about breaks in caring including what happens during hospital stays, going into residential care or going abroad. If in any doubt contact the Carers Allowance Unit or contact CarersLine. It is always best to keep the Carers Allowance Unit informed of any changes especially if you are not sure how this will affect carer’s allowance.

Something has changed, what should I do?

We quite often hear from people who have been overpaid carer’s allowance. This is often because the carer has not realised that they need to tell the Carers Allowance Unit about something that has changed. People are often caught out if there is a break in the cared for person getting their disability benefit which means carer’s allowance would stop. This can lead to an overpayment. The best thing to do is let the Carers Allowance Unit know about any changes.

For example:

Dora cares for her son and was in receipt of pension credit including the carer addition. She had underlying entitlement to carer’s allowance. Her son’s disability benefit was stopped briefly due to a mix-up but quickly reinstated. This automatically ended the underlying entitlement to carer’s allowance which, according to Department for Work and Pensions records, meant Dora was no longer classed as a carer entitled to benefits. However, no-one informed pension credit and they continued to pay the carer addition. This led to an overpayment of pension credit because, even though she was still caring, technically Dora was no longer entitled to it. It caused a lot of distress and took some time trying to sort it out.

How to claim

You can claim on form DS700 (or form DS700 SP if you get a state pension). This is available from the Department of Work and Pensions by calling 0345 608 4321 or it can be downloaded and filled in online on the government website.

Other frequently asked questions

The person I care for refuses to claim a disability benefit. Can I still claim carer’s allowance?

You cannot claim carer’s allowance unless the person cared for is getting a qualifying benefit. If the person is still able to make their own decisions about claiming, it has to be their choice. It might help if someone other than you (such as another family member, friend or even their GP) explains to them the reasons why they should apply. If they are no longer able to make this decision, whoever is appointed to manage their affairs can claim on their behalf.

My partner is earning quite a good salary so does that mean I cannot claim carer’s allowance?

The income of your husband, wife or partner would not be taken into account. If you meet the other qualifying criteria, you can still claim carer’s allowance. Also, even if you have substantial savings, as long as you are not claiming a means tested benefit alongside carer’s allowance, the savings will be ignored.

My sister and I both care for mum now. Can we both claim carer’s allowance? 

Only one person can claim carer’s allowance for caring for someone. If you both meet the qualifying criteria, either one of you can claim. The other person caring could claim carers credit which would at least protect their state pension. You may qualify for carers credit if you look after one or more people for a total of 20 hours per week and the person you care for either gets a qualifying benefit or a health or social care professional agrees to fill in the “care certificate” section on the application form.

How do the national insurance credits help me?

The class one credits, that are automatically awarded for each week that you claim carer’s allowance, help protect your national insurance record and your entitlement to state pension. They may also help towards meeting some of the contribution conditions for some other benefits, like contribution-based jobseekers allowance or employment and support allowance. You can find out more about national insurance credit on the government website.

Carers Credit

What is carers credit?
I am not paying any national insurance contributions and am worried about my state pension
I can’t claim carers allowance as I don’t care for 35 hours a week. Could I claim carers credit?
Is there an age limit?
What happens if I take a break from caring?
How do I claim?

What is Carers Credit?

Carer’s credit is a national insurance credit that helps with gaps in your national insurance record.

Carer’s credit pays class 3 contributions that help protect state pension and bereavement benefits. However class 3 contributions will not be enough if you ever need to apply for other benefits that have contribution conditions.

I am not paying any national insurance contributions and am worried about my state pension. 

If you are caring for someone, and are not paying national insurance contributions through paid work, your right to a full pension may be at risk. You do not need to claim carer’s credit if you get carer’s allowance as you will be getting your credits paid with this benefit. You may also be getting credits if you get child benefit for a child under 12 and in some other circumstances.

If you are not eligible for carer’s allowance and don’t get credits in another way, you can protect your pension rights by claiming carer’s credit. To claim carer’s credit you will need to meet certain criteria.

I can’t claim carer’s allowance as I don’t care for 35 hours a week. Could I claim carer’s credit?

You can qualify for carer’s credit if you look after one or more people for a total of 20 hours per week and the person you care for gets one of the following benefits:

  • Disability Living Allowance (DLA) middle or high rate care
  • Personal Independence Payment (PIP) the daily living component at either rate
  • Attendance Allowance or Constant Attendance Allowance
  • Armed Forces Independence Payment

If the person you care for does not 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 ask a health or social care professional to sign it.

Is there an age limit?

You must be 16 or over and under the state pension age.

What happens if I take a break from caring?

You can still get carer’s credit for 12 weeks if you take a short holiday, if someone you look after goes into hospital or you go into hospital. You need to keep the Carers Allowance Unit updated if you have a break from caring for 12 weeks or more.

How do I claim?

To claim carer’s credit you can download the application form from the government website.

Or contact the Carers Allowance Unit by calling 0345 608 4321.

Your carer’s credit application must normally be received before the end of the tax year following the tax year to which the credits relate. This time limit can sometimes be extended if it is considered reasonable.