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A guide to carers' rights

As a carer you have specific legal rights and entitlements. Knowing your rights can help you to get the support that you need.

These rights for carers include:

  • the right to have your needs assessed by your local authority,
  • the right to receive direct payments so that you can chose what services to have, and
  • rights in the workplace.

Your right to an assessment

Your right to an assessment of your needs is set out in the Carers and Disabled Children Act 2000. This says that all carers aged 16 or above, who provide a ‘regular and substantial amount of care’ for someone aged 18 or over, have the right to an assessment of their needs as a carer.

This is provided by the social services department of your local authority as a way to see if they can offer any support to aid you in your caring role.

If there is more than one carer providing regular care in your household, you are both entitled to an assessment.

The local authority has a responsibility to make sure a young carer’s own wellbeing is looked after and that they receive the necessary support. So, a 16- or 17-year-old who cares for someone, even for a limited period, may be entitled to an assessment.

If you are a parent or have responsibility for a disabled child, your needs as a carer are assessed under The Children Act 1989. You have the right to a family needs assessment. You do not need to be the mother or father of the child.

The Carers (Equal Opportunities) Act

The Carers (Equal Opportunities) Act, which came into effect in April 2005, helps to ensure that carers are not disadvantaged because they are caring for another person. The law can help you in three ways.

Your right to know about assessments

The act makes it a legal requirement for all local authorities to ensure that you are made aware of your right to a carer’s assessment.

Your right to have your needs considered

The local authority must ask you about your daily activities when undertaking an assessment of your needs. They should find out if you work, if you want to work and whether you do or want to do any education, training or leisure activities. The authority must take all of these issues into account when deciding what services they give you and the person you look after.

Your right to have authorities co-operate on your behalf

Under the act, your local authority must work with other local authorities, education authorities, housing authorities and health service organisations. These authorities must consider a request for assistance from each other if:

  • a local authority asks for help to plan services for carers or the people they care for, or
  • when the carer’s role would be enhanced by the services provided by another authority. These services can be for either the carer or the person cared for.

Carers and direct payments

Direct payments are payments given by a local authority for those who have been assessed as needing help from social services. They can be issued if you are a carer aged 17 or over.

They can be used to buy services from an organisation or to employ someone to provide assistance. The direct payments can be used to buy the services that you have been assessed as needing to support you in your caring role.

This can be support that may help maintain your health and wellbeing, such as driving lessons, an evening course or a holiday so you can relax and have time to yourself. If you have been assessed as needing domestic help then you are entitled to a direct payment to buy the support services that you need.

Direct payments are meant to give you greater flexibility to organise support and services yourself. They are payments made instead of receiving services directly. There are some circumstances when direct payments cannot be made and your local authority can let you know about these.

Carers and employment rights

Since the Employment Act 2002 became law, working parents of disabled children under 18 have the right to request flexible working arrangements. Furthermore, since April 2007, you also have the right to ask for flexible working if you are a carer of an adult who is a relative or lives at the same address as you.

While you have the right to ask for flexible work in these circumstances, it is important to know that employers are not bound to grant these requests. However, they must give business reasons for refusing a request for flexible working.

Carers also have the right to take unpaid time off work for dependents (the people they care for) in an emergency.

Your NHS rights

Like every other English citizen, you are entitled to expect to be treated in a certain way, as set out under the NHS Constitution. To find out more, visit the NHS rights and pledges page in our section on Choice in the NHS.

Watch the video below to find out about how one carer made sure she was able to exercise her rights.

Caring and discrimination

Find out why carers need to have access to support and advice about their rights.


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MMHP said on 10 September 2012

Very well said!

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chris gwynne said on 16 January 2012

as much as we would like to believe that the law is on our side it doesn't really do anything at all. i had 3 breakdowns whilst working and being bullied by my managers. i finally became so ill i took redundancy. the union weren't much use to be honest.

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Last reviewed: 28/11/2011

Next review due: 28/11/2013

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