Between Covid-19, Brexit, the climate and the cost-of-living crisis, the last few years have been a testing time for all of us- and none more so than our nation’s carers.
Our recent carer’s mental health survey could not have been more emphatic with its findings:
- 73.2% of carers felt that being a carer was having a negative impact on their mental health
- 41.6% felt the lack of financial support was the biggest concern surrounding carers in 2022
- A significant majority of carers were not sure how they were going to survive financially over the next year
“Your health is your wealth”, as the saying goes, and none more so than your mental health. However, it often gets pushed to the background for what feels like more pressing financial concerns. They are, of course, intrinsically linked- as our survey shows.
This guide rounds up the resources carers need to help them with both- links to benefits and financial aid they may not be aware of, plus both professional and informal carer’s support for mental health, too. We hope you find it useful.
FINANCIAL SUPPORTS FOR CARERS
Many unpaid carers are not aware of their entitlement to “carer’s allowance”- a benefit of up to £69.70 (correct as of May 2022)
Carer’s Allowance is available to people who spend 35 or more hours a week providing care to someone with a disability. Even if you don’t necessarily consider yourself a ‘carer’ you may meet their criteria- in fact, estimates say up to half a million people could be missing out on their entitlement here.
Other benefits you may be entitled to include:
- Universal Credit
- Carer’s Credit (if caring over 20 hours a week)
- Jobseeker’s allowance
- Employment and support allowance
- ‘Carer addition’ in pension credit
- Additional housing benefit
The Citizens Advice Bureau also offer invaluable free advice on benefits, as well as many legal issues.
If the person you are caring for has been assessed as needing social services support by your local council or trust, you may be eligible for a direct payment.
These “carer direct payments” or “carer budget payments” are not ongoing payments but one-off supports to help carers look after their wellbeing.
Here are links to more information on Direct Payments on Carers UK, and information regarding how to apply on the Government website. If you are a direct payments-employed personal assistant, it is imperative that your employer (the person you provide care to) has employer’s liability insurance to protect you both.
PROFESSIONAL SUPPORTS FOR CARERS
Being a carer can feel like a lonely job. Often, you may not feel like you have time to socialise or focus on your own well-being – but there is a range of support available to help address this specific issue.
Register with your GP
Many carers don’t think it relevant to tell their GP of their obligations here, but it can be beneficial to make them aware. Firstly, they can be vigilant for any of the markers that stress can have on your health (higher blood pressure, anxiety and depression), as well as giving advice for other helpful support and services you may be entitled too.
GP’s will often act as your first port of call for other forms of support as a carer – whether that’s linking you up with a local carer, referring you to respite care organisation, or referring you for counselling.
Apply for a carer’s assessment
This is an assessment made by your local authority, with the aim of finding way to support you in your capacity as a carer.
They are free to any carers over 18 years of age, and they can recommend:
- advice about benefit entitlement
- training to help support you in your role
- help with any day-to-day issues you are struggling with
- information about local support groups
- things you can do to boost your own health and well-being, including how to get respite from your responsibilities
If you find yourself struggling, the carers assessment is a good starting point to identify where you need help and how best to get it.
Here is a link to the NHS website where you can find your local adult care services to apply for a carers assessment.
See a therapist
Therapists can be a useful option to help you talk to someone about the stresses of the job, and get advice how best to deal with them. If you feel you could benefit from speaking to a trained professional, ask your GP for a referall.
Mental health helplines
You don’t necessarily have to see a therapist face-to-face. There are a selection of mental health helplines and listening services available. The lines are manned by trained staff, ready to listen and offer the professional advice you need.
- Samaritans. Samaritans are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. You can call 116 123 (free from any phone), email [email protected] or visit some branches in person.
- SANEline. If you’re experiencing a mental health problem, you can call SANEline on 0300 304 7000 (4.30pm–10.30pm every day).
- Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM). You can call the CALM on 0800 58 58 58 (5pm–midnight, 7 days a week) if you are struggling and need to talk. Or if you prefer not to speak on the phone, you can use the CALM webchat service.
- Shout. Shout offer a confidential 24/7 text service providing support if you are in mental health crisis and need immediate help. Text SHOUT to 85258,
- The Mix. If you’re under 25, you can call The Mix on 0808 808 4994 (3pm–midnight, 7 days a week), request support by email using this form on The Mix website or use their crisis text messenger service.
- Helplines Partnership. For more options, visit the Helplines Partnership website for a directory of UK helplines. Mind’s Infoline can also help you find services that can support you.
- If you’re outside the UK, the Befrienders Worldwide website has a tool to search by country for emotional support helplines around the world.
Find a local support group
This guide will help you find carers support groups in your area.
Extra training can not only help you feel better equipped do the job, but can be an opportunity to meet other people in the same position as you.
This NHS link will help you find carers training and education courses in your area.
And here is a links to a selection of free online courses and training for carers.
Sometimes groups and training just aren’t possible. There are several online communities and forums that can help. Again, meeting people in the same boat can be good for advice, friendship and helping the job feel less lonely.
- You can chat to people on Mind’s Side by Side and the Carers UK Forum.
- Use this Rethink tool to find support groups in your area (both face-to-face and online).
- The Carers UK website has a useful local service finder.
- Mind has a host of superb resources- including pages on peer support options and contacts for supporting yourself while caring for someone.
Support for young carers
Many carers are young people, looking after a family member. Fitting your caring responsibilities in around your education can make life even more testing. There are some special supports available for carers in this position:
- You can get information and advice from the NHS young carers guide.
- The Children’s Society offer advice, a local service finder for young carers and information on young carer’s rights.
- The Mix have a phone line on 0808 808 4994 and also a live chat facility.
- Mind has an information hub for young people aged between 11-18.
- Respite care. You might be entitled to support from respite care. Your carer’s assessment will be able to provide information, and some charities also provide it. You can check out our guide on respite care for further information.
- Support from your employer. If you are finding it hard juggling caring with your paid employment, you have the right to request flexible working arrangements and time off for emergencies, if you meet certain criteria. Carers UK have more information here about your rights at work.
We hope this guide has shown you that you are NOT alone, and there is a range of carers support for mental health.
Surewise also offers carers insurance, giving liability cover in case of accidental property damage, injuries or legal expenses for extra protection and piece-of-mind. Have a look and see if we have a policy for you.