Whether caring affects your family gradually or suddenly, it is common to feel unprepared. Rules on benefits and the social care system can feel like a confusing maze.
Without the right advice and information, it is easy to miss out on the financial and practical support you are entitled to. That’s why organisations up and down the country take part in Carers Rights Day, to reach out to the UK’s 6.5 million carers with information, advice and support. Carers UK has updated the Looking after someone guide which gives carers the full picture of the practical and financial support available to them every year. An electronic version of the guide can be found at carersuk.org/LAS .
Here is a taster, with the top three steps everyone who is looking after a disabled, ill or older loved one should take to find out about their entitlements.
1. Get a benefits check
Carer’s Allowance is the main carers’ benefit – offering a small income now and National Insurance contributions towards your State Pension if you have given up work to care. But not everyone is eligible for the benefit, so make sure you get a full benefits check to see what other financial support you may be entitled to. Other support might include council tax discounts (but not in Northern Ireland, tax credits or help with fuel costs. For information on the financial support available, visit carersuk.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Turn2us website (turn2us.org.uk) or ring your local Citizens Advice Bureau.
2. Find out about practical support
All carers are entitled to a carer’s assessment from their local council which could lead to them, or the person they are caring for, getting social care services to help with care. The assessment will look at how caring affects your life, including your physical, mental and emotional needs, and whether you are able or willing to carry on caring. Contact Kent County Council/ your local carer organisation for a carer’s assessment or visit carersuk.org/assessment for more information.
You may need practical support to help you care, like short breaks or equipment, to help make caring easier or information about local groups that can help. To find local support you can contact us at email@example.com or call our freephone on 0808 801 0102 where our helpline team will find services available to you.
3. Connect with other carers
Caring can be isolating. When we’re looking after someone, it’s not always easy to find people who really know what caring is like and are able to give us help and understanding. There are carer support groups across the UK that can help you meet other carers, as well as access local advice and support. Carers UK’s website has a directory of local services at carersuk.org/localsupport
Many carers also find online forums a huge source of support – a place where you can share what’s on your mind, any time of the day or night, with other carers who understand what you are going through and who can support you through everything caring has to throw at you. Carers UK’s forum is at carersuk.org/forum.