Expert advice on the support available to carers

Expert advice on the support available to carers

If you are providing care for a relative or friend who is unwell or disabled, you could be entitled to help and support from your local council. However, accessing this support can be complex. Eligibility for support varies across the country and the services provided are different in each council area.

Getting assessed: Carer’s assessment

  • You can ask for a carer’s assessment from your local authority to find out if you are eligible for help including support services, or financial help.
  • There are two ways the needs of an unpaid carer can be assessed: either through a joint assessment with the person you care for; or through a separate carer’s assessment.
  • To arrange an assessment, contact your local council’s social services department – find contact details on Which? Elderly Care’s care services directory.
  • The assessment will be carried out by a social worker at a face-to-face meeting, which will cover your caring role and your feelings about caring, your health, work, family commitments, what you do to relax and planning for emergencies. It’s important to be honest about your limits – if you aren’t clear about what you are and aren’t willing or able to do, you end up with a level of responsibility you can’t cope with.

Getting financial help: Carer’s allowance

  • There are a number of benefits available for unpaid carers: Carer’s allowance, carer’s credit and universal credit (carer element). More information about all of these can be found on the Which? Elderly Care website
  • These benefits are means tested – to qualify to receive them, you must earn under £110 a week after tax
  • You can receive carer’s allowance of up to £62.10 per week. You could be eligible if you spend more than 35 hours per week caring for a relative or friend; are 16 or over; are not in full-time education; and are caring for someone who has receives certain disability benefits.
  • How to claim carer’s allowance: online here; or call the Carers Unit on 0845 608 4321. When applying, you can ask for it to be backdated for up to three months.
  • Carer’s credit: carer’s credit will help you build your entitlement to the basic state pension. You could be entitled if you’re under state pension age, but aged 16 or over and spend at least 20 hours/week caring for someone. This benefit is not means tested, so income and savings are not taken into account.
  • How to apply: if you are already in receipt of carer’s allowance, you don’t need to apply and will automatically get credits. If not,  you can apply online here or by phone: 0845 608 4321
  • Universal credit – carer element: universal credit is a new single payment, which will combine six existing benefits. If you are already claiming universal credit, you may be able to get an extra amount because of your caring role, without having to apply for carer’s allowance. You cannot be in receipt of both carer’s allowance and the carer’s element of universal credit. More information can be found here, or call the universal credit helpline on: 0845 600 0723

Taking a break: respite care

  • There are likely to be times when you need to take a break from caring. In these instances, you can arrange respite care for the person you look after. This can mean arranging for them to go to a club for a few hours; you might need help at home from paid care workers; or your relative may need to go into residential care for a short time.
  • When it comes to funding respite care, your local authority will only pay for care that they have deemed is needed.
  • Paying for residential or home care: Temporary help at home or stays in a care home are assessed in the same way as permanent care. If the council have assessed your relative’s care needs as being eligible, they will then assess his or her finances to determine how much the authority will pay towards their care. If the person you care for doesn’t meet the council’s financial eligibility requirements, you may need to pay for the cost of their care yourself.
  • If you are deemed eligible, the council will give you a personal budget, which you can use toarrange and pay for care yourself, or you can ask the council to arrange it for you – they will then charge you for the cost.


  •  More from Which? Care Elderly about arranging respite care can be found here
  • For more information and help for carers, pick up the latest copy of Yours