Caring for carers: Support and benefits available

To continue living independently, many people rely on carers. How do we enable those carers to keep doing this valuable work? You can support carers themselves by understanding the assessments, allowances and the benefits that are available to carers.

Being a carer is a rewarding experience, as they can help vulnerable people live healthier, happier and safer lives at home, while also assisting the person they care for in remaining as independent as possible.

However, without the right support this can take its toll on various aspects of a carer’s life, such as their mental and physical wellbeing, their other relationships and their free time. Here, we look at what a carer is, the benefits that are available and where to find support.

What is a carer?

As described on the Carers Week website, a carer is someone who provides unpaid care and support to someone who has a disability, illness, mental health condition or addiction, or who may need extra assistance as they grow older. A carer usually spends at least 35 hours a week caring for someone.

Carers Week also states that a carer isn’t someone who volunteers or is employed to provide support. You can find out about how to access care at home from a paid carer on the NHS website.

What qualifies as being a carer?

The NHS website defines a carer as a person who is looking after someone regularly because they’re ill, disabled or an older person – and this includes family members.

Carers usually help with things such as:

  • Washing, dressing or collecting and/or administering medications
  • Helping the person they care for get to doctors’ appointments
  • Shopping, cleaning and other household chores
  • Paying bills and/or organising finances

They may also offer emotional support by keeping someone company and/or watching over someone if they can’t be left alone.

A close up shot of a young woman holding a senior man's hands in comfort

Why are carers important?

Carers are vital for a number of reasons, but most importantly they help someone who has additional care needs remain as independent and safe as possible, usually within their own home.

Carers can have a huge impact on the quality of the lives of more vulnerable people by providing support and company, as well as assistance with things that may feel too difficult. They can also help the person they care for stay connected to their local community, as well as staying mentally and physically healthy and active.

Assessments for carers

The NHS claims that if you care for someone, you can have an assessment to see what could help to make life easier. This is called a carer’s assessment – it’s free and is available to anyone over the age of 18. It includes elements and recommended services such as:

  • Someone to take over caring to allow you to take a break
  • Gym membership and exercise classes to help relieve stress
  • Help with taxi fares if you don’t drive
  • Help with gardening and housework
  • Training on how to lift safely
  • Connecting you with local support groups so you have people to talk to
  • Advice about benefits for carers.

It’s important to understand that a carer’s assessment is different from the needs assessment, but you can ask to have both done at the same time.

To apply for a carer’s assessment, you’ll need to contact your local adult social services either by telephone or online. However, if you’re a parent or carer of a child, you’ll need to contact the children with disabilities department.

What happens in the carer's assessment?

During a carer’s assessment, someone from the council – or an organisation associated with the council – will ask how you’re coping. This means that you can go into detail about how caring affects your physical and mental health, work, spare time and even your other relationships. This will help to make sure you get accurate help and support.

The assessment is usually held in person, but some councils will do it over the phone or online. It usually lasts for at least one hour.

To prepare for your carer’s assessment, it’s a good idea to gather the following information:

  • Your NHS number (if possible)
  • Your email address
  • Your GP’s name, address and phone number
  • The name, address, date of birth and NHS number of the person you care for (if possible).
Senior man being cared by a female caregiver

Benefits carers are entitled to

If you care for someone for at least 35 hours a week, you may be entitled to a benefit called Carer’s Allowance. This means you could get £76.75 a week.

You don’t have to be related to or live with the person you care for. However, if someone else cares for the same person as you, only one of you can claim this allowance. Find more information on the Carers UK website.

How to apply for Carer’s Allowance

You may be able to claim Carer’s Allowance if all the following apply:

  • You’re aged 16 or over and aren’t in full-time education
  • You look after someone for at least 35 hours a week
  • You don’t earn more than £139 per week
  • The person you care for receives a disability benefit
  • You meet UK residence and immigration conditions.

To apply for Carer’s Allowance, you can apply online at

Where can carers find support?

While caring can be rewarding, it can also impact many different areas of your life. This is why it’s important that you have access to the right information and support.

Carers Week recommends finding local support groups or services available in your area by contacting your local council or Health and Social Care Trust (if you’re based in Northern Ireland).

If you’re working alongside caring for someone, check out your company’s policies in regard to caring responsibilities. As a working carer, you have the right to request flexible working and time off to look after dependants – it’s worth speaking to your HR department about this.

Carers Trust is a charity that can also offer more guidance. Carers Trust has a network of local services providing support to carers, as well as a grants programme that can provide one-off support payments. You can also find plenty of information about support available for carers on the Carers Week website.

If you’re a live-in carer of someone who has a chronic illness or additional needs, signing up to the Priority Services Register (PSR) ensures you’ll have one less thing to worry about. If there’s an interference with your utilities, being on the PSR means that utility companies will prioritise you when addressing any issues. Sign up for the PSR here.

Further reading

Additional support at home

Alongside reablement, staying independent is about having peace of mind that you’re not going to be left cold or in the dark if the heating or electricity fails.

The Priority Services Register (PSR) is an important, free support service which is designed to support those who need a little extra help in the event of interruptions to their gas, water or electricity supply. If you or someone you know has extra communication, access or safety needs, signing up to the PSR will help ensure you or they can access the best possible services at all times, and feel safe and independent at home. 

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