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Benefits for carers

About Carer's Allowance

Carer's Allowance is the main state benefit for carers, so it's important to find out if you can receive it. Carer's Allowance is currently £55.55 a week.

To qualify, you need to meet all the rules. Check each rule carefully as they're quite complicated:

  • You must be 16 years old or over.
  • You must look after someone for at least 35 hours a week.
  • The person you look after must receive a qualifying disability benefit.
  • If you work, you must not have net earnings above £100 a week. For more information on this, see the section on caring and earnings below.
  • You must not get certain other benefits. See Overlapping benefit rules below for details.
  • You must be living in the UK when you claim Carer's Allowance and satisfy certain residence and immigration rules.
  • You must not be a full-time student.

Your eligibility for Carer's Allowance won't be affected by any savings that you have, or your National Insurance contributions record.

Getting Carer's Allowance can help you protect your eligibility for State Pension by helping you build up your National Insurance contribution record.

Read Carer's Allowance claims for information on how to make your claim. Carer’s Allowance is a taxable benefit, except for any increases for children.

The official online source of government information on benefits is Directgov.

Click on the bars below for more detailed information on Carer's Allowance rules, or read more about challenging a Carer's Allowance decision.

Age rules for Carer's Allowance show

You can claim Carer’s Allowance (CA) if you're aged 16 or over. There is no upper age limit, but it’s not normally possible to get Carer’s Allowance and State Pension at the same time because they are overlapping benefits. For more information see the section on overlapping benefit rules below.

When you reach State Pension age you have the option of putting off taking your pension. This is known as deferring your pension. Deferring State Pension has advantages for some people, as it means they will get a higher pension or lump sum payment at a later date.

However, if you defer State Pension and claim Carer’s Allowance, you won’t build up any extra payment or lump sum. This means there is no advantage to deferring your State Pension if you’re getting Carer’s Allowance.

You can find out more about deferring State Pension on the Directgov website.

Getting Carer’s Allowance since October 2002

If you were 65 or over and receiving Carer’s Allowance in October 2002, you can continue to get it even if you stop caring for someone or you start to earn more than the earnings limit.

The 35 hours rule show

To qualify for Carer’s Allowance, you have to provide 35 hours of care each week to the person you look after.

What this means

  • You will need to be providing at least 35 hours of care for the same person.
  • If you're caring for two or more disabled people, you can't add together the hours you're caring for all of them to make up the 35. Even if you look after more than one person for 35 hours a week, you can only claim one lot of Carer's Allowance.
  • When working out whether you provide 35 hours of care in any one week, note that under the Carer’s Allowance rules a week runs from Sunday to Saturday.
  • You can't average the time over a number of weeks. You have to provide at least 35 hours of care in each week for which you claim Carer’s Allowance.

Care can be at any time

It doesn't matter what time of the day or night the care is provided. If someone you care for comes to stay with you, you can count the following as part of the 35 hours:

  • the time you take to collect them and take them back to where they live
  • time spent in preparing for their visit, for example, preparing where they will sleep or preparing their meals
  • time spent cleaning up after they leave

Example

Jim cares for his mother, Ruth, who has dementia, and he also has a paid job. This is a typical week:

  • Sunday: Jim collects his mother at 9am and takes her to his home. She stays until 9am the next morning = 24 hours.
  • Monday: Jim takes Ruth back to her own home, settles her and later clears up his own home after the visit = two hours.
  • Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday: Jim visits Ruth after work and makes her a meal. This amounts to two hours of care each evening = six hours.
  • Friday: Jim makes a shorter visit to his mother after work = one hour.
  • Saturday: Jim prepares his mother’s room and cooks food for her = two hours.

Total hours of care: 35

Qualifying benefits show

Your eligibility for Carer’s Allowance depends on the benefits the person you're looking after receives.

The person you're looking after must receive one of the following benefits because they need help with personal care. They are:

If the person you're looking after receives only the mobility component or lowest rate care component of DLA, you will not be eligible for Carer’s Allowance.

If they're getting the lowest rate care component of DLA and their condition has got worse, you can ask the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to consider its decision again and see if the middle or higher rate of the care component of DLA can be paid instead.

When asking for existing benefits to be reconsidered, there is a risk that the DWP may decide they're no longer entitled to the level of benefit they're already receiving.

Claiming DLA or AA before you claim Carer’s Allowance

Before claiming Carer’s Allowance, wait until the person you look after receives a decision about their claim for AA or DLA. If you make your claim for Carer’s Allowance within three months of the date of that decision, your Carer’s Allowance will be paid from the same date the DLA or AA is paid. You will be paid the arrears of benefit you're owed.

Example

David is awarded AA, which is paid from March 1, the date he claimed the benefit. The letter from the DWP telling him about this decision is dated June 1. Jenny, David’s carer, has been looking after him since March 1 and has met all the conditions for Carer’s Allowance since that date.

If Jenny claims Carer’s Allowance before September 1 (within three months of the date on the letter David received on June 1), her Carer’s Allowance will also be backdated to March 1. In other words, she will receive a lump sum payment for Carer’s Allowance for the arrears she is owed.

Claiming top-up benefits while waiting for a decision

If you're entitled to a means-tested benefit such as Income Support, make a claim for that straight away. Do not wait for the person in your care to get a decision on their DLA or AA claim. You can claim Income Support for up to six months while waiting for the person you're looking after to get a decision on their DLA or AA claim.

In some cases, you may be entitled to a means-tested benefit only once the person in your care gets DLA or AA and you have made a claim for Carer’s Allowance. In this situation, you can claim the means-tested benefit at the same time that the person you're looking after claims DLA or AA. Your claim will be turned down, but if you make another claim for Carer’s Allowance and the means-tested benefit within three months of the DLA or AA decision date, your means-tested benefit can be paid from the same date that DLA or AA is paid.

Caring and earnings show

If you're working and you earn less than £100 a week from paid work, you will not lose any of your Carer’s Allowance. If you earn more than £100 a week, you will lose all of your Carer’s Allowance for the weeks you earn that amount. Only earnings affect your entitlement to Carer’s Allowance. It is not affected by other income, such as an occupational pension or maintenance payments. The £100 is a net figure, which is the amount you're left with after deductions for:

  • National Insurance
  • Income Tax
  • half of any pension contributions you make

Common questions

My earnings vary - can I keep my Carer’s Allowance?

If your earnings vary, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will usually agree to look at your average earnings over a five-week period if this means the earnings are assessed more accurately.

In some cases, it may help if you show the DWP a copy of your employment contract to show the details of the agreement about how you are to be paid.

If you think the DWP hasn't been fair in the way it looked at your earnings, you can appeal against the decision or ask for it to be reconsidered.

I am self-employed - what information will they need?

If you're self-employed, your weekly earnings will be averaged over a year. If you have recently become self-employed or there has been a change that's likely to affect the normal pattern of your business, the DWP can calculate your earnings in a different way. The DWP will decide what period of time would be appropriate to assess your earnings. If you do not think that the DWP has been fair in the way it has looked at your earnings, you could ask it to look at the decision again, or appeal against it.

You will need to supply an up-to-date set of accounts when first claiming. Expenses (such as a car or telephone) incurred for the purposes of the business can be deducted.

What can I deduct from earnings when calculating Carer’s Allowance?

You're allowed to deduct the following:

  • Any payments you make to someone (other than a close relative) to look after the severely disabled person you normally care for while you're at work. Up to half your net earnings can be ignored this way.
  • Any payments you make to someone (other than a close relative) to look after your child (or children) under 16 while you're at work. Up to half your net earnings can be ignored this way.
  • The first £20 of any income for renting out rooms in your own home.
  • Foster care allowance from a local authority.

Example

Tom is a single parent with a 10-year-old son. He also cares for his mother. He works part-time and earns £120 a week (after tax, National Insurance and pension payments), which is over the earnings limit for Carer’s Allowance.

If Tom pays a neighbour or friend £25 a week to look after his mother or his son while he is out at work, this money can be deducted when working out whether he is entitled to Carer’s Allowance.

He would be allowed to deduct £25 a week from his earnings, leaving a total of £95 (£120 minus £25) to be taken into account. This would allow him to get Carer’s Allowance.

Breaks from caring and earnings show

In certain circumstances you can take a break from caring and still receive Carer's Allowance. A break from caring means you spend less than 35 hours a week caring for the person you usually look after.

For example, your Carer's Allowance may be paid for up to four weeks in any 26-week period if:

  • you are going on holiday
  • the person you care for is going on holiday
  • the person you care for has a stay in a care home

Or your Carer's Allowance may be paid for up to 12 weeks in any 26-week period if:

  • you are admitted to hospital or a similar organisation
  • the person you care for is admitted to hospital or a similar organisation

You have to have received Carer's Allowance for at least 22 weeks before you can take one of these breaks. This entitlement to breaks cannot be stored up.

If the person you care for is in hospital for a continual period of more than four weeks their Disability Living Allowance or Attendance Allowance will stop and so will your Carer's Allowance.

For further details contact the Carer's Allowance Unit at Palatine House, Lancaster Road, Preston, PR1 1HB, or call on 0845 608 4321(textphone 01772 0845 604 5312).

Overlapping benefit rules show

Carer’s Allowance is an 'earnings replacement benefit'. You can’t normally get more than one earnings replacement benefit at the same time, as they are said to 'overlap'.

Some earnings replacement benefits are based on National Insurance (NI) contributions. These are:

Some earnings replacement benefits are not based on NI contributions, these are:

  • Carer’s Allowance
  • Severe Disablement Allowance

If you're entitled to more than one of these benefits, a benefit based on NI contributions will be paid in preference to one that does not depend on contributions. If you're entitled to two benefits, you will be paid the benefit that pays the higher amount.

If you're entitled to a benefit based on NI contributions but this is worth less than another benefit that's not based on contributions, will you be paid the benefit based on contributions and then the difference between the two benefits will be paid from the benefit that's not based on contributions.

Example

Sunita is a 68-year-old carer. She receives a State Pension of £45 a week. A State Pension is based on contributions. Her State Pension is lower than Carer’s Allowance (which is £55.55 a week), so her State Pension is paid and £10.55 of Carer’s Allowance is also paid each week so that she's not worse off.

Carer’s Allowance and Severe Disablement Allowance

If you're entitled to both Carer’s Allowance and Severe Disablement Allowance then Carer’s Allowance can be paid in full and topped up with any balance of Severe Disablement Allowance.

However, if your Severe Disablement Allowance is the same amount or more than Carer’s Allowance (£55.55 a week) you could ask to be paid Severe Disablement Allowance in full.

This is particularly useful if you're looking after someone who may lose their severe disability premium if you claim Carer’s Allowance.

If you can't get Carer's Allowance

If you can't be paid any Carer’s Allowance because you're being paid another earnings replacement benefit, you still have an 'underlying entitlement' to Carer’s Allowance.

Although you will not be paid Carer’s Allowance, it's still worth making a claim for it because the underlying entitlement to Carer’s Allowance can mean you're more likely to qualify for means-tested benefits.

This is because an amount called a carer's premium (or carer's addition for Pension Credit) can be included when your means-tested benefit entitlement is worked out.

How Carer's Allowance can help you get other benefits show

Claiming Carer’s Allowance can affect your eligibility for means-tested benefits, including:

Means-tested benefits are only paid if the person you're looking after has limited income and capital (such as savings).

If you get Carer’s Allowance, the carer premium (or carer addition for Pension Credit) will be added when your eligibility for means-tested benefits is worked out. If you would be eligible for Carer’s Allowance but you don't get it because you get an overlapping benefit, you can still get the carer premium or carer addition.

Getting the carer premium or carer addition could mean that you’re eligible for more means-tested benefit, or that you’re eligible for means-tested benefits when you weren't before.

On the other hand, your eligibility for means-tested benefits depends on your income, so any increase in your income (including getting Carer’s Allowance) could mean that you’re no longer eligible, or you get less benefit.

The best way to find out what you’re entitled to, and how getting Carer’s Allowance could affect this, is to get a full benefits check. Your local Citizens Advice Bureau, welfare rights organisation or carers centre may offer this service. Speak to one of our helpline advisers or search our online directory to find help in your area.

Christmas bonus

If you get Carer’s Allowance you’ll automatically get a £10 Christmas bonus in December.

Full-time students and Carer's Allowance show

If you're a student in full-time education you can't receive Carer’s Allowance. You count as a student if you attend school, college, university or a similar establishment. This could include distance learning with a body such as the Open University.

What is full-time?

You’ll be considered a full-time student, and won’t be able to claim Carer’s Allowance, if:

  • the institution where you’re studying describes your course as full-time
  • your course is 21 hours or more a week 

You could be considered full-time even if you don't have to be in a classroom or under supervision for all of those 21 hours. If you're expected to do certain hours of coursework or study on your own to fulfil the requirements of the course, those hours will count towards the 21-hour limit. Breaks and lunchtimes are ignored. If you are doing extra study it shouldn't count towards the 21-hour limit.

If I study full-time, can I claim Carer’s Allowance during vacations?

No, you'll still be treated as if you are in full-time education.

Who decides whether the hours I study on my own are a required part of the course?

Evidence from the school, college or university will be very important. However, you could argue that you're able to complete the course in fewer hours than would normally be expected. That could be because you have some prior qualification or experience, or simply because you work more efficiently. Some students have successfully appealed against decisions refusing them Carer’s Allowance. If you would like to appeal, get further advice from a welfare benefits adviser.

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Carers Direct Editors said on 28 February 2011

nicolaw33,

We cannot respond to specific enquiries here, but you can get answers by sending your enquiry at www.carersdirectenquiry.nhs.uk or by calling the freephone helpline on 0808 8020202.

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nicolaw33 said on 21 February 2011

hi, both me and my partner are on JSA which he claims for us and my 3 children. We have child tax credits also. What i wanted to ask is, my mother has asked me to become her carer but i'm unsure of what to do. She said it is 53.90 but i'm unsure how it all works. Does my partner still claim JSA or sign off? I'm confused about it all. If he still can claim JSA is the 53.90 taken away from the JSA and then put back by the caring allowance giving us the same amount we started with. any advice greatly appreciated.

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terrygee said on 22 November 2010

I recently asked for 4 weeks off to earn money & I was told the £100 rule applied, I stated what I had read on this site & they checked. They came back & informed me that it was a little known rule that is not used much but it is correct. I have got my benefits as well as earning extra, so try appealing, quite often the people you speak to are wrong.

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Southeast1 said on 02 October 2010

i would just like to add that i recently comtacted the carers unit in regard to taking a break from caring to do some over time at work at xmas (like it states you can on this website). They informed me that you can take a break from caring but that you can still only earn £100, if you earn a penny more, yor benefit will be stopped.
Therefore the information you are providing is incorrect
I did send an email to you but have had no reply.
I just want other readers to know that you can take a break from caring but the rules regarding earning STILL apply.

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Carers Direct Editors said on 07 May 2010

Dear spag cares and others,
If you have questions about your financial situation, benefits and working, it might be worth calling our free, confidential helpline on 0808 8020202.
In the meantime, please check out our pages on your entitlements to other benefits: http://www.nhs.uk/CarersDirect/moneyandlegal/otherbenefits/Pages/Overview.aspx
and our pages with advice on family finances for carers:
http://www.nhs.uk/CarersDirect/moneyandlegal/finance/Pages/Overview.aspx
and also what help you might be eligible for from the Social Fund:
http://www.nhs.uk/CarersDirect/moneyandlegal/socialfund/Pages/Overview.aspx

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spag cares said on 03 May 2010

I am the sole carer for my mother, who is serverly physically disabled. She recently has been forced to leave work under frustration of contact which therefore means she will have no income other than the benefits she will recieve which are substancialy lower then her income was. I pay around half the rent for the house we live in, but now it is going its obviously going to be more difficult. According to this i am not entitled to any financial suport to help pay our bills as i earn more then £100 a week working at the local hospital as a carer.

I seriously have difficulty in beleiving that is fair as any finincial help i would recieve would go back into helping her and myself stay in our current housing situation!

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User287704 said on 14 April 2010

Genuine carers, like me, are being put off by the draconian rules & regulations. I have been here since September 2009, taking care of my mum in law who has Dementia, but have not claimed for C/A. We had dealings with Carers Allowance & decided not to lower ourselves anymore & BEG for help. There sadly are the few who claim for everything and ensure that genuine claimants go through hell then to get what they are legally due. We honestly would rather financially struggle than go through that again, and I wouldn't be surprised if others felt the same way.

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User287704 said on 14 April 2010

I have a comment about the Support Workers, we sometimes have 28 that's 4xdailyx7days week calling, mum gets VERY agitated at so many calling. Then we hear tales of TRIPLE bookings, no travel costs, getting here at 7am supposed to be here for 1 hour, but having to be across the town for the next Service user at 8am, HOW, BY MAGIC CARPET? NOT ENOUGH... See more HOURS FOR FULL TIME WORKERS, 10 -15 hours per week is supposed to be full time, WHERE? Nepotism, favouritism is rife with the office staff, your face don't fit you don't get the hours. Houses being repossessed, debts, moving jobs due to not enough hours, staff leaving, YET the firm is taking on more staff, they can't give the present staff enough hours.
Every single one of these women are great with mum and us, can't do enough for us, whilst I was so ill recently they have helped me with everything, hard workers, each one enjoys spending time here as we are so friendly towards them and we care about them, that's why I am SO ANNOYED they are being treated this way.
I have had to drag this information out of them, as they are trying to be loyal to the firm, but this information I have built up, stinks to high heaven. One came here one day SO upset, and as a Counsellor I sat her down and spoke with her trying to help her as any human would do.
Families NEED Support Workers, I know that we do, I couldn't cope without them, but to treat them in this way reeks of Victorian rules. If they have the bug (which is riff down here) there's no 48 hours gap before returning to work, as no pay. It's spreading like wildfire down here, I caught it off one of them and almost died due to severe dehydration making my kidneys fail. l know this is just not one firm but quite a few down here so the rules must be coming from a local source of control. I'm going to vote for whomever helps out Carers, but also Support Workers too, without them where the hell would some of us be?

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debwar said on 16 March 2010

I so agree with adopter ! it is frustrating when you get stuck in the trap and feel that you could work for a certain amount of hours per week but the system stops you! the hours of care we provide do not necessarily mean that we cannot fulfill some employers work criteria as well! as a person who has always worked up until my husband required care it is very frustrating!!!! If we werent here - someone would have to be providing care!!!!!!!!

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adopter said on 01 February 2010

This is brilliant for genuine carers and they well deserve the money that is paid. On the other hand this can be yet another unjust farce which enables some people to claim a carers allowance when they do not fulfil the criteria and/or make fraudulent claims.

If there is to be an allowance then it should be awarded to all genuine carers regardless of income since they are fulfilling the same role in society and in many instances much more competently.

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Last reviewed: 30/03/2011

Next review due: 30/03/2013

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