What is Carer’s Allowance and who gets it?

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If you care for someone for at least 35 hours a week, you may be entitled to claim Carer’s Allowance. But how much will you get and how do you claim?

What is Carer’s Allowance?

Carer’s Allowance is a benefit that you may be able to claim if you care for someone for 35 hours a week or more. The person you’re caring for has to be receiving certain benefits. In the tax year 2019-20, it’s worth £66.15 a week. According to Carers UK, the charity for carers and their rights, £1 billion of Carer’s Allowance is unclaimed every year.

Carer’s Allowance is not means-tested, so it doesn’t matter how much savings you (and your husband/wife/partner) have. However, you can only get Carer’s Allowance if you earn less than £123 a week (in the tax year 2019-20) after tax and some expenses (see the point below).

You can claim Carer’s Allowance if you live in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

How much you can earn while claiming Carer’s Allowance

The rules say that you can earn up to £123 a week (tax year 2019-20), and still claim Carer’s Allowance. This figure generally increases in April. However, you may be able to earn considerably more than this, because you can take certain expenses, as well as tax, from your earnings figure.

You can deduct:

  • The income tax you pay
  • The National Insurance you pay
  • Half of any pension contributions you make, whether that’s to a workplace or private pension.
  • Up to half your earnings for money you spend on childcare (if your child is under 16) or care for the ill/disabled person you’re caring for, while you’re at work. So, for example, if you earn £250 a week and spend £250 a week on childcare while you’re at work, you could deduct £125 a week of that (50%).

SAVVY TIP: If you earn over £123 a week when you’ve taken your tax, National Insurance, pension contributions and childcare/caring costs into account, you cannot continue to receive Carer’s Allowance.

Who can claim Carer’s Allowance?

You can claim Carer’s Allowance if you care for someone for at least 35 hours a week. The person you’re caring for doesn’t have to be related to you. However, there are other conditions that you, and the person you’re caring for, have to meet.

Conditions that you have to meet:

  • You have to be 16 or over.
  • You normally live in England, Wales or Scotland.
  • You must have lived in England, Wales or Scotland for two out of the last three years (unless you’re a refugee).
  • You’re not in full-time education, or studying for 21 hours a week or more.

SAVVY TIP: You can’t claim Carer’s Allowance if you’re receiving the state pension.

The person you’re caring for must be receiving one of these benefits before you apply for Carer’s Allowance:

  • Personal Independence Payment: daily living component
  • Disability Living Allowance: middle or highest care rate.
  • Attendance Allowance.
  • Constant Attendance Allowance at the normal rate paid with the Industrial Injuries or War Pensions Schemes.
  • Armed Forces Independence Payment.

How the 35 hour caring threshold is calculated

I’ve mentioned that you have to care for someone for 35 hours a week in order to get Carer’s Allowance. The rules as to what counts as ‘care’ in that time need a little explaining. I’ve taken this information from the Carer’s UK website, which explains it very well.

They say that the 35 hours can include;

  • Time you spend helping the person (for example, with feeding, dressing etc).
  • Time you spend ‘keeping an eye’ on them. This could include making sure they don’t leave the house if they would come to harm by doing this.
  • Time you spend doing things like cooking for them.

SAVVY TIP: The rules say that you can only claim Carer’s Allowance for the weeks where you actually provide care for 35 hours a week. The week runs from Sunday to Saturday. You can’t add up the care you provide and average it out over a number of weeks.

Taking a break from providing care

The Carers UK website says that you can take a break from caring and still claim Carer’s Allowance. This is useful information that isn’t on the Gov.uk website, so might be missed.

  • You can take a break of up to four weeks every 26 weeks (six months) and you will still receive Carer’s Allowance. In order to qualify, you must have been providing care for at least 35 hours a week for 22 out of the last 26 weeks.

SAVVY TIP: If you or the person you’re caring for have been in hospital, you can count up to eight weeks of a hospital stay in that time. However, the person you’re caring for must continue to receive the qualifying benefits throughout that time.

  • You can get Carer’s Allowance for up to 12 weeks if you go into hospital. In order to qualify, you must have been providing care for at least 35 hours a week for 14 or more weeks out of the last 26.

SAVVY TIP: If you’ve had a break from caring of more than 12 weeks in the last 26, your Carer’s Allowance will stop.

Protecting your state pension entitlement if you take a break from caring

If you take a break from caring and you don’t qualify for Carer’s Allowance any longer, you may be able to get Carer’s Credit, which will protect your National Insurance record. Carer’s Credit won’t pay you any money, but it will credit you with NI contributions. You can find out more about Carer’s Credit in my article.

If your circumstances change

The rules around what you have to do if your circumstances change are pretty strict. In fact, the DWP has been asking tens of thousands of carers to pay back Carer’s Allowance that the government says they weren’t entitled to. In some cases, the DWP has said that the carers owe up to £50,000. Because Carer’s Allowance is less than £67 a week, it means that someone must have been overpaid for more than a decade.

I understand that individuals have a responsibility not to claim benefits they aren’t entitled to, but I think the approach by the DWP has been incredibly heavy handed. Frank Field MP goes further and describes it as ‘shocking ineptitude’.

It’s particularly difficult if you’re self employed or on a zero-hours contract, where your income is predictable. What’s caught some people out is the fact they’ve told one part of the DWP that their circumstances have changed (perhaps because they’re claiming other benefits), but they haven’t told the Carer’s Allowance Unit.

Under the rules, you have to tell the Carer’s Allowance Unit if your circumstances change.If you live in Northern Ireland, you can report changes online

There’s currently an investigation by the Work and Pensions Committee into Carer’s Allowance overpayments. You can find out more about this, here:

Useful links:

There’s lots of information about Carer’s Allowance on the Carers UK website.

Related articles:

Getting National Insurance credits for your state pension if you’re a carer

Everyone has the right to ask their employer for flexible working

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