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11 financial support options for carers

The RCN Foundation have partnered with debt advice experts PayPlan to provide free advice and support to nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants experiencing hardship. Learn more about their work with the RCN Foundation.

Financial help is available to anyone who supports a family member or partner who is unwell or disabled. Statistics from Carers UK show that one in eight adults in the UK – around 6.5 million people – are carers, and every day another 6,000 people take on a caring responsibility.

Even if you support someone but don’t really think of yourself as a carer, it’s a vital role to play and important that you know what you’re entitled to when it comes to money.

The good news is that there’s a range of financial support options out there to support carers and the people they care for. The bad news is that it can be difficult to know where to turn.

Here, PayPlan have identified eleven forms elements of support you could be entitled to, plus how to access them.

11 financial support options available to carers

1. Universal Credit Carer Element

Universal Credit is a means-tested benefit for people of working age. It’s usually thought of as a benefit for people on a low income, but in fact many households with average or higher than average income levels can also qualify.

It’s always worth checking if you’re eligible by speaking to an adviser or using a benefit calculator, especially if you have dependent children, or live in rented housing.

Remember that the rates for Universal Credit changed in December 2021 and again in April 2022, so if you checked your eligibility a while ago, the results could easily be out of date now.

You may be able to qualify for a £168.81 a month Carer Element that gets added to your Universal Credit, even if your income is too high to get Carer’s Allowance.

To qualify, you need to support someone who gets DLA, PIP, or Attendance Allowance, and provide that support for at least 35 hours per week. You can’t get the Carer Element if someone else already claims Carer’s Allowance or Carer Element for supporting the same person.

If you’re not sure if you already get the Carer Element:

  • check your most recent Universal Credit statement

  • click the amount to see a full breakdown of all the elements and deductions that were used when your award was calculated

  • write on your account journal if you don’t see the Carer Element there, but you think you qualify.

To make a new Universal Credit claim, apply online here.

2. Carer's Allowance

If you earn less than £128 a week after tax, National Insurance and expenses, and you look after someone who gets DLA, PIP or Attendance Allowance, then Carer’s Allowance is another option.

You can get it at the same time as Universal Credit, but since it’s deducted from Universal Credit in full, the main advantage of Carer’s Allowance is for those people who don’t qualify for Universal Credit.

It’s also important to note that in rare cases receiving Carer’s Allowance can affect the other benefits that you and the person you care for get, and you have to pay tax if your income is over the Personal Allowance.

Speak to a benefits adviser if you want to check whether claiming Carer’s Allowance will reduce the benefits received by the person you care for.

You can receive Carer’s Allowance weekly in advance or every four weeks. For each week you receive Carer’s Allowance, you’ll automatically get National Insurance credits.

If you live in Scotland, you’ll automatically get a Carer’s Allowance Supplement.

3. Support from your local council

You can request a carer’s assessment for free, and anyone over 18 can ask for one. The assessment intends to see what help might make your life as a carer easier. It’s separate from the needs assessment that the person you care for might have.

To organise an assessment, contact adult social services at your local council or, if you’re a parent carer, contact the children with disabilities department. You can do this online or over the phone. Find your local social services team here.

Make sure you have your NHS number, GP details and the name, address, date of birth and the NHS number of the person you care for (if you have it) to hand for your assessment.

Your council might also be able to help you with further costs, but you’ll need to arrange a financial assessment first which can be arranged following your carer’s assessment.

4. Pension Credit

If you’re over State Pension age and on a low income, Pension Credit gives you extra money to help with your living costs. It’s separate from a State Pension and you can get this even if you receive other income.

You’ll receive higher levels of Pension Credit if you support a qualifying adult or child. For more details visit the Pension Credit web page.

5. Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for children

If you’re the parent carer of a disabled child, aged under 16 who has difficulties walking, or needs much more looking after than a child of the same age who doesn’t have a disability, you could claim DLA. Find out more about claiming DLA for children here.

6. Carer’s Credit

This is a National Insurance (NI) contribution to help make sure you don’t lose out on some social security benefits, such as the State Pension, because of gaps in your National Insurance record. You’ll be able to claim this if you look after someone for more than 20 hours a week and don’t get Carer’s Allowance. Find out more about claiming Carer's Credit here.

7. Blue Badge Parking

Blue Badges help people with disabilities or health conditions park closer to their destination. You can apply for a badge for yourself, on behalf of somebody else or an organisation that transports people that need a Blue Badge.

A person will automatically qualify for a Blue Badge if you they’re aged 3 or over and at least one of the following applies to them:

  • they receive the higher rate of the mobility component of the Disability Living Allowance (DLA)

  • they receive a Personal Independence Payment (PIP) because you can’t walk more than 50 metres (a score of 8 points or more under the ‘moving around’ activity of the mobility component)

  • they’re registered blind

  • they receive a War Pensioners’ Mobility Supplement

  • they’ve received a lump sum benefit within tariff levels 1 to 8 or the Armed Forces and Reserve Forces Compensation Scheme and have been certified as having a permanent and substantial disability that causes inability to walk or very considerable difficulty in walking

  • they receive the mobility component of PIP and have obtained 10 points, specifically for descriptor E under the ‘planning and following journeys’ activity, on the grounds that you’re unable to undertake any journey because it would cause you overwhelming psychological distress

They also may be eligible for a badge if one or more of these items applies to them.

Their local council will decide if they’re eligible for a badge. They can’t start the assessment process until they have all the necessary evidence. It may take 12 weeks or longer to assess the application. Find out more about applying for a Blue Badge here.

8. Help with NHS prescriptions and health costs

If the person you care for is on a low income, or in receipt of certain benefits or tax credits, they may be entitled to full or partial help towards NHS costs. In England, if they’re in receipt of one of the following means-tested benefits, they can get full help with NHS health costs:
  • Income Support or Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (not contribution based)

  • Pension Credit Guarantee Credit

  • Income-based Employment and Support Allowance

  • Universal Credit

If they don’t currently receive one of these qualifying benefits, but have a low income, then they may be able to get ‘full’ or ‘partial’ help towards NHS health costs through the NHS Low Income Scheme (LIS). Find out more about LIS here.

Find out about help with health costs in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

9. Disabled Facilities Grant and other support grants available

You can contact your local authority if you live in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, to enquire about a Disabled Facilities Grant to help towards the cost of home adaptations.

How much someone receives depends on household income and savings. The maximum amount varies depending on where they live. You can find out more on the Entitled To website.

In Scotland, they may be able to get other support for equipment and adaptations.

As a carer, if either yourself or the person you care for needs additional support paying for something, there are grants out there to help. Disability Grants has details of charities to apply to.

10. The Motability Scheme

This scheme is designed to help disabled people lease a car, a powered wheelchair or scooter. They’ll need to be in receipt of one of the following to access this:

  • the higher rate of the mobility component of DLA

  • the higher rate of the mobility component of Child Disability Payment

  • War Pensioners’ Mobility Supplement

  • Armed Forces Independence Payment

  • the enhanced rate of the mobility component of PIP

It’s worth also looking into whether their local council operates a dial-a-ride or taxi scheme, and whether they’re eligible for a bus pass, a Disabled Persons Railcard or both.

11. Check eligibility using PayPlan’s Benefits Calculator

It’s worth checking if the person you support has had expert and independent advice on their benefit entitlements. Remember that PayPlan’s Benefits Calculator is here to help. 

For more help and advice

If you’re interested in learning more about making the most out of your budget and maximising your income, make use of PayPlan’s Financial Wellbeing Hub.

If you’re struggling with debt repayments and want to get on top of your finances, remember you can get in touch with PayPlan.