Are you a hidden carer?
Do you look after a friend, neighbour or family member but don’t think of yourself as their ‘carer’? You’re not alone. According to the charity Elizabeth Finn Care, there are 300,000 carers in the UK who are eligible for a weekly government allowance, but fail to claim it.
If you’re looking after someone for most of the working week, then the government recognises you as a carer. Many activities count as caring. They include helping someone to get dressed and move about, taking them to the loo, washing their clothes and preparing their meals. Shopping, cleaning, filling in forms, managing money and checking medicines also count.
Here’s some of the help that may be available to you:
Cash and credits
Carer's Allowance – If you spend more than 35 hours a week caring for someone, then you could be entitled to this weekly benefit. You don’t have to be related to the person or even live with them. Worth over £3,000 per year, Carer’s Allowance can certainly help to ease the financial strain of caring. However, the allowance might affect any other benefits you claim, such as pension credits. Contact the Carer’s Allowance Unit to find out more.
Carer's Credits – If you don’t qualify for Carer’s Allowance, and you still care for someone for more than 20 hours a week and haven’t yet drawn your state pension, then it’s worth applying for these. Carer’s Credits are the equivalent of the National Insurance payments you would make if you were working and count towards the build-up of your state pension in the same way.
Community Care Grant – If you need a bit of extra financial help to ease exceptional pressures on yourself and your family, you might be able to claim this grant (which you don’t have to pay back).
Travel and transport
The Motability scheme – If you’re the designated driver for a person with limited mobility, you can cut your travel expenses by getting them to apply to buy or lease an affordable car through this scheme. They can also apply for a powered scooter or wheelchair. Find out more about Motability.
Blue Badge parking scheme – If you’re the driver for a person with disabilities, you can get council authorisation to park in convenient places. The person you care for can nominate you as your driver when they apply for the Blue Badge. You’ll then be able to use disabled parking bays when you take them shopping, for example, or to park for up to three hours on single or double yellow lines.
Disabled Persons Railcard scheme – Getting out and about for a change of scenery can make all the difference when it comes to caring for someone. Helping the person you care for to apply for this card enables not just them but also you (as their companion) to get one-third off most rail fares on the National Rail network. Apply for a Disabled Persons Railcard.
A break from caring
You might find there comes a time when you need a break to recover your strength. If that’s the case, make sure that both you and the person you care for get a community care assessment from the council. They might be able to supply a replacement carer when you take your break. Your local GP might also be able to get you a temporary carer, so talk to them as well.