Help for Carers: The Complete Guide

Table of Contents

1. Steps to Getting Support
2. Getting a Needs Assessment
3. Getting a Carer’s Assessment
4. Paying for Help
5. What Support is Available for People Coming Out of Hospital?
6. Do I Qualify for Benefits?
7. Other Financial Help
8. How to Take a Break
9. Managing Someone’s Financial Affairs
10. Carer Support Organisations

Steps to getting support

If you look after someone who couldn’t manage on their own without your help, you are a carer. You may have suddenly become a carer after a loved one became ill or had an accident. Or you may have gradually found yourself fulfilling the role of carer as your elderly parents or partner have needed more support as they get older.

When a loved one’s mobility becomes limited and they begin to struggle to get around their home safely, they will need more help to continue living independently.

Every situation is different. Some people need support both day and night. Others may require help with certain tasks a few hours each day, such as preparing meals or getting out of bed.

The person you look after may live with you or nearby. However, in many cases people live a long distance from their ageing parents and how to look after them is a big worry.

Caring for a family member or close friend is a natural human instinct and you are not alone. It is estimated that every day in the UK 6,000 people become unpaid carers. There are 6.5 million unpaid carers throughout the UK. That means 1 in 8 adults give their time to care for someone who can’t cope on their own.

Being a carer can take up a lot of your time. It can be rewarding but also exhausting. You will need to re-arrange your life to fit your caring responsibilities around your work and family life. In many cases people have to reduce their working hours or give up their job completely in order to look after a loved one.

Becoming a carer can be a hard adjustment to make. You may feel like you have to manage on your own, but support is available. However, the “system” is bewildering and knowing where to start can be confusing. Researching what help is available can take a lot time, leaving a lot of carers frustrated and stressed.

For this reason we have put together this easy to understand guide to where to find help when you care for someone with limited mobility. Read on to find out more about how to get help and support.

Getting a Needs Assessment

Local authorities must offer a needs assessment to any adult who appears to need support. Anyone can have an assessment regardless of their financial situation. Contacting the local council for the person you look after is the first step to finding out what support they are eligible for.

Often it can be difficult to find the right person at the council to speak to about arranging an assessment. Councils provide a range of services and provide a huge amount of information on their websites. As there is so much information to look through, it may not be immediately obvious from a council’s website who you should phone to arrange an assessment or whether you need to fill out an online form.

Needs Assessment Finder

To make it easier for you and to save you time, we have created a searchable database a to show you the relevant details for getting a needs assessment from your local council. Simply type in the name of the person you care for’s local council into the box below to find the information you need.


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Needs Assessment Finder

The assessment will take into account the physical, mental and emotional needs of the person you are looking after. As a carer you have a right to be involved in the assessment.

Once the assessment has been made the local authority will make a decision about whether the person you care for is eligible for support. They must still give information and advice even if they decide the person is not eligible.

If support is required, it may be provided by the local authority or as a direct payment. The type of support provided may include minor home adaptations and aids to improve access and support independent living, a professional care worker, or a day centre place.

Some support is free. For example, aids and minor home adaptations that cost less than £1,000 are provided free of charge. Other kinds of support may be paid for by the local authority, but this depends on the financial situation of the person you care for.

For instance, means-tested Disabled Facilities Grants (DFGs) are available for home adaptations that cost more than £1,000, such as stairlifts, ramps and walk in baths.

Getting a Carer’s Assessment

As well as assessing the care needs of the person you look after, their local authority should also offer you a carer’s assessment to see if you are eligible for any support. You are entitled to a carer’s assessment regardless of how much care you provide or your income.

Stairlifts Reviews has created the Carers Support Tool. Just enter the name of the council for the person you look after in the box below. This will bring up information on how to get support in that area.


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Carer’s Support Finder

A carer’s assessment will take into account the impact your caring role has on your life, health and wellbeing, your life circumstances and your feelings. If after the assessment the local authority deems you eligible for support, this will either be provided directly to you or to the person you care for.

If the local authority charges for carer support (some don’t), whether they will pay for this support will depend on either your financial situation or the financial situation of the person you care for.

The type of support provided to carers (according to need) may include taxi fares, a laptop or help with housework or gardening. If the local authority decides you are not eligible for support, they must still give you details of local carers support services that can help you.

Paying for Help

If the person you care for can afford it, one option to consider is to pay someone to provide professional home care. This may be a good solution for the times when it is not convenient for you to be there. For example, a paid carer could prepare lunch for the person you look after whilst you are at work.

To find a reliable carer, you could see if the local authority can give you a list of approved care providers. Visit the Care Quality Commission website or the Which? Elderly Care Directory.

What Support is Available for People Coming Out of Hospital?

If your loved one is in hospital due to an illness, such as a stroke, or injury, such as from a fall, you may be worried about how to look after them when they come home. It may be that their mobility has decreased and they will need extra support for perform daily activities.

Before they are discharged from hospital, a discharge assessment should be done. This will establish what support they need and whether they are eligible for intermediate or reablement care, NHS continuing healthcare or nursing care, or other NHS or community care services.

The discharge assessment may be done by a combination of several different health or social care professionals. The hospital should have a dedicated discharge coordinator or ward care coordinator who you can talk to about arranging an assessment and any other concerns you may have.

As a carer, you should also be offered a carer’s assessment to check what support you will need once your loved one comes home.

Do I Qualify for Benefits?

There are a number of benefits that you or your loved one may be entitled to. As the benefits system is complicated to understand, you should get a benefit check done to be sure which benefits, if any, you can claim.

You can check if you are eligible online at:

If you want to speak to someone for more advice contact the Carers UK Adviceline on 0808 808 7777.

Carer’s Allowance

If you meet certain conditions you may be entitled to Carer’s Allowance. For example, you must spend at least 35 hours a week looking after the person you care for and not earn over £110 a week.

The system is quite complicated and you can find full details at:

Carer’s Credit

If you look after someone but you aren’t able to claim Carer’s Allowance, and you don’t pay National Insurance contributions through employment, you may be able to claim Carer’s Credit.

By claiming Carer’s Credit you won’t receive any money. Instead you will get a National Insurance contribution credit. This will help to protect your rights to a state pension.

To be eligible you need to look after someone for 20 hours a week or more. Usually the person you care for must be claiming certain benefits, but this is not always the case.

You can get more information at:

Disability Benefits

The person you care for may be able to claim disability benefits. Disability benefits are not based on financial situation or National Insurance contributions. There are other criteria to be met in order to receive them.

  • Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is for children under 16.
  • Personal Independence Payment is for people aged between 16 and 64.
  • Attendance Allowance is for people over 65.

Other Financial Help

Council Tax

You may qualify for a discount on your council tax bill if you’re caring for someone. Whether you qualify for help with your council tax bill depends on your circumstances. Local authorities run Council Tax Reduction or Council Tax Support schemes for people on a low income. You should contact your council to check what help you could get.

Your property may be exempt from council tax if it is empty because you’re caring for someone and no longer living there. If your home has been adapted for someone with a disability you may be able to get a council tax discount under the disability reduction scheme.

Fuel Bills

You or the person you look after may be able to get help with fuel costs. This can save money on heating bills. There are a number of schemes that might apply to your circumstances.

  • Winter Fuel Payment
    People who meet the age requirements and other criteria can get between £100 and £300 to help pay for winter fuel bills. For more information call the Winter Fuel Payment Helpline on 0345 915 1515.
  • Cold Weather Payment
    If the weather where you live is particularly cold during the winter and you claim certain benefits you may be able to claim a Cold Weather Payment. This is £25 for each week the temperature was at or below freezing over 7 days in a row. There is no need to apply for this. If you or the person you care for qualifies, the payment will automatically be paid.
  • Warm Home Discount
    If you or the person you look after meet the criteria you could receive a discount on your electricity bill. If your electricity company is part of the scheme and you qualify, you should receive a letter in the autumn or winter about it. Either the discount will automatically be applied to your bill or the letter will tell you how to apply. If you have any queries you can phone the Warm Home Discount Team on 0345 603 9439.

NHS Costs

You or the person you care for may be entitled to help with NHS costs if you claim certain benefits. Help includes free prescriptions, dental treatment and eye tests. You may also get vouchers towards glasses and reimbursement of travel expenses for hospital treatment.

Everyone over 60 gets free prescriptions and eye tests on the NHS no matter what their financial situation. Another way to save money is to use Prepayment Certificates for regular prescriptions. People on a low income who aren’t on benefits may also be eligible for help from the NHS Low Income Scheme.

For more information visit:

http://www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/Healthcosts/Pages/help-with-health-costs.aspx

Budgeting Loan

A Budgeting Loan is an interest-free loan that you can pay back in instalments. People claiming certain benefits may be eligible. A Budgeting Loan can be used to pay for essentials such as rent, furniture or clothes.

For full details visit:

https://www.gov.uk/budgeting-help-benefits

Grants

A number of organisations offer grants to help with the cost of home adaptations for people with limited mobility. You can find out more by reading our comprehensive guide to grants for stairlifts and other home adaptations.

Support for Working Carers

There are an estimated 3 million working carers in the UK. If you are one of them you may find it a challenge to balance your work hours with your role as a carer.

It is important you know your rights. Everyone who works has statutory rights. You should also check your employment contract to see if you have additional contractual rights. Some employers offer contractual rights that are more generous than statutory rights.

As an employee you have a statutory right to ask for flexible working so long as you’ve worked for your employer for 26 weeks. Employers can only refuse a flexible working request for certain reasons.

Flexible working that could help you juggle work with looking after someone include working from home, flexitime or job sharing. You can find more information at:

https://www.carersuk.org/help-and-advice/work-and-career/other-rights-at-work/your-right-to-flexible-working

All employees are entitled to take a “reasonable” amount of time off to deal with an emergency or unforeseen matter relating to a dependent (someone who relies on you). This time off is usually unpaid unless you have a contractual right to paid time off.

Under the Equality Act 2010 your employer must not discriminate against you or treat you any differently because of your caring responsibilities.

Some employers have a carers policy or can offer advice or support for carers. It is worth speaking to your employer to see what support, such as special leave, they may be able to offer you. There may well be other employees in the company that are unpaid carers too.

How to Take a Break

Caring can be time-consuming and tiring. It is essential to look after your own health and wellbeing so that you are able to continue helping your loved one. Taking a break from caring is vital, whether you feel you need just an hour or two a week, a day, or a week or two to go holiday. You will need to find someone else to look after your loved one while you take a break. There are various options to look at.

  • Social Services
    You can speak to the local social care team to see if they can provide any support.
  • Pay for Care
    If the person you look after can afford it, you could look at paying for a professional home care service.
  • Family or Friends
    There may be a family member or friend you can rely on to help you out.

Managing Someone’s Financial Affairs

The Telegraph recently reported that over half of the unpaid carers in this country know the bank card PIN for the person they look after.

Regardless of whether the person you care for is happy for you to use their bank card, legally they are liable for any transactions and would have little recourse if they were the victim of fraud. Although it seems like an easy solution, by telling you their PIN they are breaking the terms and conditions of their bank account and putting themselves at risk.

There is a campaign by the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute to grant carers the right to use the person they care for’s card to buy essential items, such as groceries and prescriptions. However, in the mean time carers should go through the correct legal process to manage their loved one’s financial affairs.

If the person you look after needs help managing their finances there are different ways to do this. It depends on whether they can make their own decisions (have mental capacity) or not (lack mental capacity).

  • Third Party Mandate
    To help with their bank account you will need to contact the bank to arrange a third party mandate.
  • Power of Attorney
    You could seek legal advice regarding setting up a Power of Attorney to manage all their financial affairs, either now or should the need arise in the future. There are different types for different situations. In England and Wales there is Ordinary Power of Attorney and Lasting Power of Attorney. In Scotland there is General Power of Attorney and Continuing Power of Attorney.

Carer Support Organisations

You may at times feel isolated in your role as a carer. It’s important to remember that there are loads of other people in the same situation as you. It can help to speak with other carers to share your experiences, discuss how you’re feeling and support each other. There are support organisations all over the UK as well as online forums. You can find local support from:

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