Caring for a loved one is a big responsibility, and it can feel daunting if you have to cut back on (or give up) work to do so. Specialist equipment, home adaptations and other costs add up quickly, and unless you know where to look, financial help can be hard to find.
If you’re feeling stuck or worried, you’re in the right place.
We’ll begin this brief guide with a few financial planning tips for unpaid carers. Then, we’ll go through some of the carer’s grants, benefits and other services that you (and the person you care for) might be entitled to.
Caring for your finances
If you’ve taken a pay cut, or you’ve given up work to care for a loved one, it can be helpful to create a budget. If you know where your money goes, you can make the pennies last a little longer. It’s also vital to protect your State Pension if you stop working.
Budgeting for unpaid carers
Putting together (or taking a second look at) a budget can help you cut spending, pay back debt and save for a rainy day. This easy-to-use budget planner from Money Helper can show you:
- All your spending each month
- The categories you spend money on (like food, or fuel)
- How to make the most of the money you have
You can make changes to your budget planner anytime.
Protecting your State Pension
Are you moving from paid employment into unpaid care work? Make sure you protect your State Pension.
If you get Carer’s Allowance, you should receive Class 1 credits. If you work part-time as a care assistant but receive Universal Credit, Income Support or Child Benefit for a child under 12, you should get Class 3 credits.
Check your National Insurance record online to see if you’re receiving the credits you’re entitled to, and contact HMRC by phone or webchat if you need assistance.
Help for unpaid carers
When you’re in a financial bind, carer’s grants can be especially helpful because you won’t usually have to pay them back. You can use a carer’s grant award for almost anything: to pay off debt, buy groceries, purchase mobility equipment – all sorts of things.
Take a look at these two sites to learn how to apply for a carer’s grant.
Many Turn2us carer’s grants aren’t means tested, so you can apply even if you’re not entitled to benefits. To see what you might be eligible for, submit your details at the Turn2us website.
Do you have a disability, or are you the parent or caregiver of a person with disabilities? If so, check out national and local carer’s grants available at Disability Grants. You can filter by age group, grant type, disability type and more.
What benefits can you claim if you are a carer?
If you or the person you care for are entitled to benefits, do claim them. Benefits can really help if you’re on a low or fixed income, have children or live with a disability.
You could get benefits like:
- Carer’s Allowance
- Universal Credit
- Pension Credit
- Attendance Allowance
- Personal Independence Payment
- Disability Living Allowance for children
To see what you could be eligible for, fill out the benefits calculator at entitledto.co.uk. If you want to speak to someone about applying for benefits, or you need help, visit Citizens Advice and speak to a Help to Claim adviser.
Local authority-funded support
Thanks to the Care Act 2014, local authorities in England sometimes fund unpaid carers as well as the people they care for. You’re entitled to a free carer’s assessment, which can happen online, on the phone or in person.
The services you receive will depend on your needs. For example, you might be eligible for respite care, help with personal care for the individual you look after, or help with transport. Get in touch with your local council to find out how to take a carer’s assessment near you.
Council Tax Reduction
Having trouble paying Council Tax? You might qualify for Council Tax Reduction (sometimes called Council Tax Support). CTR can lower or totally get rid of your Council Tax bill, so it’s worth looking into.
Available CTR schemes depend on where you live, but usually:
- If you get the guarantee credit part of Pension Credit, you’ll qualify – and your income and savings won’t affect your eligibility.
- If you’re on a limited income, you could pay less each month.
- If you get Carer’s Allowance, you might qualify for special schemes.
To learn more about Council Tax Reduction programmes in your area, click here.
Energy prices have risen a lot over the past year. Thankfully, organisations like Local Energy Advice Partnership (LEAP) can help you pay less.
If you’re in (or at risk of) fuel poverty, you can take advantage of LEAP’s wide-ranging services. Social housing tenants, private renters and homeowners can all apply.
People with a household income below £31,000 per year, or those who receive benefits (like Carer’s Allowance, Universal Credit or Housing Benefit) might be eligible for schemes like:
- LEAP Energy Advice Service: a free appointment with an energy advisor.
- LEAP Boiler: help with boiler repair or replacement costs.
- LEAP Appliance: financial help to replace inefficient fridges, freezers, cookers and other appliances.
Interested? Apply via a LEAP partner or directly online at the LEAP site.
Help for the care recipient
Local authority funding
Much of the responsibility for social care falls to the local authority, so if you’re an unpaid carer, it’s a good idea to check council-funded support options for the person you care for.
In England, social care support is a means-tested benefit, so the person you care for can’t have more than £23,250 in savings and assets. However, there are exceptions: if the person needs support after hospitalisation, this falls under NHS continuing healthcare (NHS CHC), which is free for everyone.
Things are different in Scotland. If your local council deems the care recipient eligible for services, they’ll receive them for free. This may mean you can reduce the number of hours you spend providing personal care for your loved one each week.
Home adaptation funding
Home adaptations can be expensive. Thankfully, there are funding options that make essential work more affordable. If you care for a family member, these schemes can give you peace of mind.
To get the ball rolling, contact your local authority and ask for an occupational therapy assessment for the person you work with. An occupational therapist will visit your loved one’s home to see which adaptations they need, then submit a report to the council.
Local councils often fund minor adaptations. Disabled Facilities Grants can cover more expensive adaptations like improved access, ramps and other large-scale projects.
The Florence Academy Pathway to Care course
If you’re interested in becoming a paid healthcare assistant, Florence Academy’s new Pathway to Care course can introduce you to the skills needed to kick-start a career in care. It’s totally free, broken up into bite-size chapters and covers topics like these:
- Adult social care
- Nutrition and hydration
- Mobility and falls
- End of life care
You can learn on your computer or your smartphone, and every time you complete a module, you’ll get a certificate. To find out more and sign up, click here.
Reach out for help
It’s a big job to be an unpaid carer. Thankfully, organisations like LEAP, your local council and Citizen’s Advice can help take the pressure off. If you’re finding it hard to make ends meet or could do with a little extra financial support, take a look at the carer’s grants, benefits and other services we mentioned above.
Thank you for everything. Every day, you make life better for the person you care for, and we truly appreciate the important work you do.
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