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Top tips for carers

Carers come from all backgrounds and can be any age. Caring can be rewarding, but it can be difficult too. Here are ten important things that any carer should know to help with their caring role and make sure they get the support they are entitled to.

Definition of 'carer'

A carer is someone who looks after and supports a friend, relative or neighbour who could not manage without their help. This could be due to age, physical or mental illness or disability.

It does not mean a professional care-worker or personal assistant who gets paid for their work.

If you are a carer, you are not alone. Three in five people in the UK will become carers at some point in their lives.

Financial support for carers

If you care for someone, there is a range of financial benefits available to you and also to the person you care for. Do not be afraid to ask for help and claim what you are entitled to.

Carer's Allowance

Carer's Allowance is a taxable benefit for people who cannot work or have a low income because they are looking after someone who is ill or disabled. You may be able to get Carer's Allowance if you spend at least 35 hours a week in your caring role.

Carer's assessments

If you provide care for someone aged 18 or over, your local council should carry out an assessment to see if you are entitled to any services that could make caring easier for you.

A carer's assessment is about your needs as a carer. Examples of help may include help with housework or changes to the home.

Taking a break

As a carer, it is important that you make time for yourself. This does not not mean that you abandon the person you care for. Having some time off from caring can help your own well-being, and that is good for both yourself and the person you look after.

Some local councils provide a range of services to give you a break. Speak to your council about what services may be available.

Employment options

Paid work not only gives you an income, it can also boost your self-esteem and give you an opportunity to meet people unconnected to your caring role.
 
Many employers offer help to carers. For example, it is in your employer's best interest to consider flexible working patterns to help you combine working and caring.

Caring and your State Pension

The State Pension is based on the number of years in which you have paid or are credited with National Insurance contributions.

If you are unable to work because you are caring for someone, you can still get credited with National Insurance contributions. If you are entitled to Carer's Allowance, you will be credited automatically.

Health services

Caring for someone can be physically and emotionally demanding. Speak to your doctor (GP) about any concerns you have over your own health. Your doctor can advise you on keeping healthy, including eating well, exercising and getting enough sleep.

Your doctor should also be able to give you information about counselling, social services and organisations for carers.

Financial support for the person you care for

There is a wide range of disability-related financial support, including benefits, tax credits, payments, grants and concessions.

If the person you care for qualifies for a benefit but is unable to make a claim themselves, you can claim on their behalf.

Where to go for help

Your local council is the first place to go to for information about caring for someone. You can get advice about practical things, like services that the council provides.

There are also organisations to help carers, including charities and local groups. Other carers can be a great source of support. Some carers groups have online forums, so you can stay in touch with other carers without leaving the house.

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