Direct Payments & More: Your Guide to Understanding Your Benefits
There is an estimated seven million carers in the UK, which works out to be approximately one in ten people. Often, carers look after someone alongside a host of other responsibilities, including caring for a family – sometimes children, working, and other day-to-day tasks that become much harder when you have someone else’s needs to factor in.
Whether you’re a full-time registered carer, or currently help a family member or friend when you can, there are many benefits you may be entitled to in order to make your role as a carer easier.
Registering for the benefits you are entitled to can:
- Give you additional support in your role as a carer
- Entitle the person you care for to additional benefits
- Give you an extra allowance to help you look after the person you care for
- Give you more access to information and the carer community in your area
- Make it easier for you to commit your time to the person you care for rather than worrying about money
Many people do not even realise that they are entitled to benefits due to being a carer – especially because many of these people are caring for a loved one.
However, if you spend a certain amount of time each week (see below) caring for someone, you may meet the requirements in order to claim benefits to make your – and the persons you care for – life easier.
Below, we’ve covered some of the many carers benefits that you may be able to claim for, and how to initiate this process.
What Carer’s Benefits Am I Entitled To?
1. Carer’s Credit: National Insurance Contribution
Carer’s Credit is a National Insurance contribution that helps with gaps in your National Insurance record which could otherwise cause you to lose some social security benefits such as the State Pension. This is because the State Pension is based on your National Insurance record.
The carer’s credit is available if you are caring for someone for at least 20 hours per week, and do not receive Carer’s Allowance. To be eligible you must:
- – Be 16 or over
- – Be under State Pension age
- – Care for one or more people for 20 hours/week minimum
The person you care for must receive one of the following:
- – Disability Living Allowance (middle or highest rate)
- – Constant Attendance Allowance
- – Attendance Allowance
- – Personal Independence Payment
- – Armed Forces Independence Payment
You should note that even if the person you care for does not get one of the above benefits, you may still be granted Carer’s Credit if you meet the eligibility requirements, so if you do not qualify for Carer’s Allowance you should still apply for Carer’s Credit.
2. Carer’s Allowance: Main Welfare Benefit
Carer’s Allowance is a welfare benefit available to people who spend 35 hours a week or more caring for someone with a disability. In order to be eligible for carer’s allowance, you need to meet these requirements:
You may be eligible for Carer’s Allowance if you:
- – Care for someone at least 35 hours/week
- – Are aged 16 or over
- – Are no longer in full-time education or studying for more than 21 hours/week
- – Earn less than £116/week after taxes, care costs, and 50% of what you pay into your pension.
Equally, the person you care for needs to be currently claiming for one of the following benefits:
- Attendance Allowance
- – Personal Independence Payment
- – Disability Living Allowance
3. Carer’s Premium: Means-Tested Benefit
Carer’s Premium is linked to, but separate from Carer’s Allowance. Carer’s Premium is a means-tested benefit that you may be entitled to in addition to carer’s allowance. The amount you get varies depending on your financial situation – i.e. how much other money you have coming in via income, benefits etc.
The amount of Carer’s Premium you are therefore entitled to receive varies on your individual circumstances.
4. Direct Payments
Direct payments give users money to directly pay for their own care. They are available from Health and Social Service Trusts for anyone who is assessed to be in need of help from social services. If you are a carer aged 16 or over, you can usually receive a direct payment from social services.
What Can I Use Direct Payments for?
Carers may use direct payments to buy services you need support for in your capacity as a carer. Often, the Trust providing you with direct payments must agree you are in need of this support.
You can use your direct payments to:
- – Employ someone to provide additional help with your carer’s role
- – Buy services from a care organisation
- – Buy practical help to maintain your health – for example, driving lessons, domestic help, and services to assist in your responsibilities as a carer to provide time-off for you to look after your own well-being.
What Can Direct Payments Not Be Used For?
There are specific things you may not use your direct payments for, and it is important that you follow these regulations to ensure your payments are not jeopardized. You cannot use your direct payments to pay for services from:
- – A spouse
- – Close relatives
- – Anyone living in the household
How Much Are Direct Payments For Carers?
The number of direct payments you receive is entirely decided by the Trust’s assessment of your needs and the level of support you require. If you already receive services from your local Trust, make an inquiry about direct payments with them.
5. Personal Independence Payments: Welfare Benefit
Personal Independence Payment is a welfare benefit available to people with long-term illness or disability and aged between 16 and 64 years old.
PIP is payable to those eligible regardless of your income, any savings or National Insurance contribution records. It is a tax-free benefit and available even if you are working or studying. You may also claim PIP if you are a carer with care needs, and this will not affect your Carer’s Allowance.
If you have a carer, claiming for PIP may help them qualify for Carers Allowance, and help you and your carer to claim help for your council tax.
If you are a carer, it is worth considering whether you need to protect yourself with a carer’s insurance policy. This will provide you cover in case you:
- injure someone in your role as a carer
- injure yourself in the role as a carer
- need to take legal action
Our carer’s insurance policies cover you from these circumstances and more and are available as annual or monthly payments from as little as £6.25 per month. Find out more and get a quote here.