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Carer Benefits Advice Service

While caring for someone can bring about many positives, there are still the realities of life, such as paying the bills and managing money. A recent Carers UK survey stated that 68% of carers regularly use their own income or savings to pay for care or equipment for the person they care for. It may improve your financial situation if you have an understanding of the benefits you are entitled to.

At Carers Support West Sussex we understand you may not have the time to navigate the complex benefits system, which is why we have worked with West Sussex County Council to develop the carer benefits service. This free service is available to all carers registered with Carers Support.

How can this service help you?

The carer benefits service will help and support you in your caring role by maximising your income and the income of your cared for by informing you of the:

  • types of welfare benefits available to your circumstance
  • likely level of entitlement and conditions, and
  • application process for benefits

If you have received an unfavourable benefit decision, advice can be provided to challenge the decision using the mandatory reconsideration and appeals process. If you are facing tribunal action, we cannot attend a tribunal with you, but information and advice can be provided on how to handle these situations to achieve the best possible outcome for your attendance at a tribunal.

The focus of our service is about giving advice. If you require a form filling service, we recommend contacting Citizens Advice Help 2 Claim Service for help with online Universal Credit applications, or Age UK for help filling claim forms for Pension Credit and other benefits relevant to those of pension-age.

How can I access this advice?

There are several ways to access our free benefits advice service:

  • Contact our Response Line to pre-arrange a 1:1 phone consultation between you and the benefits advisor at one of our benefits surgeries
  • Contact our info@carerssupport.org.uk email address and our benefits adviser will contact you to arrange a time to talk
  • Join one of the monthly online carer Q and A sessions

To arrange any of those options, just contact us by phone, email or using the online chat function on this website.

Martin (the benefits advisor) is so approachable and you can ask questions direct about benefits that are very hard to find the answers to on your own’ Carer, anonymous

What are the main welfare benefits you can claim as a carer?

During the benefits consultation, you can find out, which of the many benefits available, are suitable to your circumstance. You could discuss any of the following benefits which may be available to carers and those they care for:

  • Carers Allowance
  • Personal Independence Payment
  • Disability Living Allowance; Attendance Allowance
  • Universal Credit
  • Pension Credit
  • Housing Benefit
  • Council Tax Reduction
  • Contribution-based Jobseekers Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance (New style ESA and JSA).

Can the benefits adviser guarantee benefit entitlement?

No. While every effort will be made to provide an accurate picture of the type and amount of benefit you can claim, the ultimate decision rests with the actual assessment of benefit by the Department of Work and Pensions. This is due to the many variables involved, for example, means testing. So the consultation will increase your knowledge of what you can claim, but the advice will be provisional.

If you need to know about benefits now:

If you are in a situation in which you need to know more the types of benefit available quickly, we have provided some more information and eligibility criteria about each of them below.

Carers Allowance

This is the first benefit carers should consider as a carer. If you are looking after someone for 35 hours a week or more, you may be eligible. You don't have to be related to, or live with the person you care for to claim Carers Allowance. The person you care for must receive certain benefits. You must earn under a certain amount.

Carers Allowance is not means tested, apart from your earnings (see below). Savings and partner’s earnings don’t count. Neither do private or occupational pensions, although State Pension does.

You may be eligible if:

  • You spend at least 35 hours a week caring for a ‘severely disabled’ person. You don’t have to be related to them or live with them. The person you care for counts as severely disabled if they receive the higher or middle-rate care component of Disability Living Allowance, either rate of Personal Independence Payment daily living component, or any rate of Attendance Allowance.
  • You don’t earn more than £128 a week after deductions (2021/2022 figure).
  • You are not in full-time education.
  • You are aged 16 plus (no upper age limit).
  • You are not subject to immigration control

Often, Carers Allowance is not actually paid, as it is taken into account when claiming other benefits such as State Retirement Pension and New-Style ESA. Don’t be put off claiming these other benefits as you’ll probably be better-off on them.

If you claim these other benefits, you are likely to be awarded an additional amount if you are a full-time carer. For Universal Credit, this will apply even if you haven’t actually claimed Carers Allowance. These amounts are referred to as carer premium, carer addition or carer element.

How to claim:

Call the Carer's Allowance Unit on 0800 731 0297 (textphone: 0800 731 0317) or visit www.gov.uk/carers-allowance to download a claim form or make a claim online.

Up to 3 months backdating may be possible.

For more detailed information see Carers UK's factsheet: Carers Allowance

Personal Independence Payment (PIP)

For people aged 16 plus and under pension age when they apply, who may need help with ‘daily living’ activities or getting around because of illness or disability. The disability must have already lasted at least 3 months and be expected to last at least 9 months. Not means tested.

PIP has a daily living component and a mobility component, both of which have standard and enhanced rates. You can receive payments for either or both of these components.

Am I eligible?

You must be able to show that you need help with specific daily living tasks and/or help with getting around (mobility) because of your health condition. You do not need to be actually receiving that help.

PIP is not means-tested. You or your partner’s income or savings are not taken into account. Neither are any other benefit you are already receiving.

You must be aged at least 16 and under pension age when you apply

  • You can get PIP even if you are working or studying.
  • You can claim PIP even if you are a carer yourself.
  • Usually, you must not be ‘subject to immigration control’

How to claim:

To start your claim, call the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) on 0800 917 2222 (textphone 0800 917 7777).

DWP will ask for basic information in a call lasting approximately 15-20 minutes. They will then send you a claim form which will ask for more details about your medical condition or disability and you how it adversely affects you. Your claim will be assessed by a healthcare professional and you might have a face-to-face assessment. At the time of writing, DWP is carrying out these assessments by phone due to Covid-19.

Read more in Carers UK's factsheet: Personal Independence Allowance (PIP)

Disability Living Allowance (DLA)

To help with the extra costs of bringing up a disabled child. For people looking after a child under 16 with a health condition or disability. Not means tested.

Am I eligible?

  • New Claims for DLA can only be made by children aged under 16. (Those age 16 plus now claim PIP; or Attendance Allowance if over pension age)
  • UK residence condition must be satisfied
  • Usually must not be subject to immigration control

DLA has a care and a mobility component. A child can claim either or both component and each component has different rates. The disability can be physical or mental.

For care component, the child needs to satisfy the disability conditions, which are based on need for attention and supervision beyond what a child of the same age normally requires. An actual medical diagnosis is not necessarily required.

For mobility component, the child must need guidance and supervision to get around outside or have difficulty walking. An actual medical diagnosis is not necessarily required.

How to claim:

Call Disability Allowance helpline on: 0800 121 4600 or go to: www.gov.uk/disability-living-allowance-children/how-to-claim

Read more in Carers UK factsheet on Disability Living Allowance

Attendance Allowance

Universal Credit

The default benefit now usually claimed by working-age people on a low income, both working and non-working. Includes housing costs help towards rent (which replaces Housing Benefit for most working-age claimants).

Carer element may be payable to boost amount paid. Means tested.

It is available to people looking for work, single parents, people unable to work due to illness and those with full-time caring responsibilities.

Am I eligible?

  • Must normally be aged 18 plus (but some 16/17 year olds can get it)
  • Must be under pension age (but see below for couples)
  • Usually, not in full time education (but several exceptions apply)
  • Must accept a ‘claimant commitment’ (e.g. to look for work if able to do so)
  • Saving/capital under £16,000 (whether single or part of a couple)
  • Immigration status may affect whether you can claim.

Couples must make a joint claim. If one partner is over pension age, Universal Credit must still be claimed rather than Pension Credit.

Note: If you are looking for work and have worked in recent tax years, you should also consider claiming New-Style Jobseekers Allowance (JSA). See https://www.gov.uk/guidance/new-style-jobseekers-allowance

How to claim:

Universal Credit must normally be claimed online at www.gov.uk/apply-universal-credit

Telephone claims are only allowed if an online claim is genuinely not possible. See www.gov.uk/universal-credit/how-to-claim

Find out more at www.gov.uk/universal-credit/how-to-claim and in the Carers UK factsheet: Universal Credit

Pension Credit

For people of pension age who are on a low income. Consists of Guarantee Credit and Savings Credit. (Savings Credit is being phased out).

Pension Guarantee Credit tops up your weekly income to a minimum amount. Means tested.

Pensioners whose income is below a certain amount can claim Pension Credit. The main type of Pension Credit is called Pension Credit Guarantee or Guarantee Credit.

Am I eligible for Guarantee Credit?

  • Income will be topped up to £177.10 if you are single or £270.30 for a couple (2021 – 2022 figures) but may be higher if you are a carer (see below).
  • Savings over £10,000 affect Guarantee Credit
  • Both partners must be over pension age
  • Usually not subject to immigration control.
  • If only one member of a couple is over pension age, Universal Credit must be claimed instead.

If you have caring responsibilities a carer addition may increase this amount. Disability or having responsibility for a child may also entitle you to more Guarantee Credit.

Savings Credit

A small extra weekly amount available if you reached pension age before 6 April 2016 and your income is above a certain amount. It is designed to reward you for saving or taking out an occupational pension. Savings Credit is being phased out and applies to a relatively small number of people, but it’s still worth checking if you may be eligible.

How to claim:

Ring the Pension Credit claim line on: 0800 99 1234, or you can apply online, provided you’ve already reached pension age and are not living with a child under 16 or a young person aged 16-19 in full-time education. Go to apply for Pension Credit online on GOV.UK

Read more about Pension Credit on the Carers UK website

Housing Benefit

Help with paying your rent if on a low income. Working age people usually can no longer claim it unless they are in temporary or supported accommodation with the local authority. Instead they now claim Universal Credit with housing costs. But it’s usually still the benefit to claim if you are a pensioner paying rent. Means tested.

Am I eligible?:

  • Over pension age; or working age but in specified temporary accommodation or local authority accommodation with care and support provided
  • Less than £16,000 savings, unless receiving Pension Guarantee Credit, in which case savings rule is slightly different
  • Usually, not subject to immigration control.

How to claim:

Housing Benefit is claimed direct from your local authority or as part of a Pension Credit claim. To find out who your local authority is and how to claim see www.gov.uk/housing-benefit

New-Style Employment & Support Allowance (ESA)

For people who have limited capability for work or are unable to work. Based on National Insurance contributions in recent tax years (employed or self-employed). Payable for up to 12 months when Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) ended or not available.

Am I eligible?

  • Age 16 plus, but under pension age
  • Signed off sick – can be employed or self-employed
  • Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) run out or not entitled to SSP
  • Paid National Insurance in relevant tax years

New-style Employment & Support Allowance (ESA) – also referred to as ‘contribution-based’ ESA - is not affected by savings or your partner’s earnings but may be affected if you receive an occupational pension. Most people can receive it for up to 12 months. Universal Credit may be payable as a top-up to this benefit if you’re on a low income and have savings under £16,000.

It is sometimes possible to work under 16 hours per week and still receive ESA. For more information and how to claim see www.gov.uk/employment-support-allowance

Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA (IR))

A means-tested benefit for those who have limited capability to work or are unable to work. A new claim for income-related ESA is not normally possible, but it’s often still paid to people who’ve been unable to work long-term. People cared for by a carer often receive this, as well as other benefits such as PIP.

Council Tax Reduction

Also known as Council Tax Support or Council Tax Benefit, this benefit is not paid as a cash benefit; instead it is a reduction in your Council Tax bill due to low income. It is paid in addition to other discounts such as the 25% discount available for single adults.

Am I eligible?

  • You may be eligible if you are working or pensionable age
  • You must be liable to pay Council Tax where you live
  • You must be on a low income
  • You must normally not subject to immigration control

Each council runs its own scheme. Applications are made direct to them. To find out who your local council is and how to apply see www.gov.uk/apply-council-tax-reduction

Council Tax discounts and exemptions are also available for people who are diagnosed as ‘severely mentally impaired’. This can apply to people with severe dementia. See www.moneysavingexpert.com/reclaim/severe-mental-impairment-dementia-council-tax-rebate

Note: In England and Wales, local authorities have discretionary power to reduce your Council tax bill in addition to awarding you Council Tax Reduction e.g. if you are in debt.

Find out at www.gov.uk/apply-council-tax-reduction

Please find links to other organisations offering further benefit information and support:

Citizens Advice

Age UK

Turn2Us - includes benefit calculator and has current benefit rates

EntitledTo - includes benefit calculator

Shelter

StepChange

Pensions Advisory Service

GOV.UK

Mental Health and Money Advice

NI Direct

Carers Trust

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