Your work and career
Currently there are over three million working carers in the UK. It may feel as if you are juggling two jobs when you are holding down a paid job and caring for a friend or relative but work can be important for your well-being, income and for maintaining social contacts.
There are things you can do to cope with the pressures of work and care. As a working carer you are likely to need support at work, and often different levels of support at different times – from access to a telephone to check on the person you care for, to taking leave to help out when someone is being discharged from hospital.
The good news is that carers have some statutory rights and more and more employers are realising the benefits of supporting carers.
Carers’ rights at work
Most working carers have the following rights:
- The right to request flexible working.
- The right to time off in emergencies.
- The right to parental leave if you have a child.
- The right not to be discriminated against or harassed under the Equality Act.
Your employment status can affect your entitlement to these rights. If, for example, you are self employed, on a short-term contract or employed through an agency you may not be covered by these rights. If this applies to you it is important to seek advice.
A good employer
In addition to your statutory rights, your employer may offer more support. This will be outlined in your contract and the organisation’s policies. For example, you may be able to use leave arrangements, paid or unpaid, at the discretion of your employer to cover intensive periods of care.
If you are thinking of giving up work, a career break (or sabbatical) allows you to keep your options open, ensuring you can go back, and keeping you in touch with the world of work. Some employers offer paid and/or unpaid career breaks, often after a specified period of service with them, so check your organisation’s policies.
Sometimes the support you need is very simple like access to a telephone or information and advice.
Benefits and Tax Credits
Working out what benefits or tax credits you might be entitled to is a difficult and complex task. However we would urge everyone who is caring for someone not to be put off and claim what they are entitled to. Research from Carers UK in 2010 called ‘Carers Missing Millions’ showed that around £843 million of benefits goes unclaimed by carers each year. There are all kinds of reasons for this but sometimes people simply give up on their claims or they are wrongly advised and told they are not entitled to claim.
It pays to get good advice. Carers UK can give you information on what financial help is available, but we would always suggest that you seek contact with a qualified advisor to do a thorough benefits check and looking at your individual circumstances.
Carers UK’s adviceline can do a benefits check for you or your local Citizens Advice Bureau may be able to help.
Carer’s Allowance is the main benefit for carers. From April 2012 the weekly rate is £58.45.
To get Carer’s Allowance you must meet all the following conditions:
- You look after someone who gets a qualifying disability benefit.
- You look after that person for at least 35 hours a week.
- You are aged 16 or over.
- You are not in full-time education.
- You earn £100 a week or less (after deductions).
- You satisfy UK presence and residence conditions.
Carer’s Allowance is not means tested – in other words not based on your income or savings, but earnings may affect your entitlement. It is not based on your National Insurance record.
Carer’s Allowance is taxable but, because it is a low amount, on it’s own it is below the threshold for paying tax. So you will only have to pay tax if you have other sources of taxable income such as an occupational pension or earnings.
DLA and AA
Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and Attendance Allowance (AA) are state benefits that help with the extra costs of long-term illness or disability, which can be either physical and/or mental.
For DLA you must make a claim before your 65th birthday. If you are aged 65 or over you should claim AA instead. However if you are paid DLA before you reach 65, it will continue after your 65th birthday for as long as you satisfy the rules for the benefit.
Claiming these benefits can help you or the person you care for qualify for other benefits and/or tax credits.
If a person gets DLA or AA then the person caring for them may be able to claim Carer’s Allowance.
Getting DLA or AA may help get a Council Tax discount (Rate Rebate in Northern Ireland).
Getting DLA might give you access to the Motability scheme or Blue Badge parking scheme.
DLA and AA are more flexible than most benefits. For example:
- DLA and AA are not means tested. They can be paid regardless of your income, savings or National Insurance contribution record.
- Both benefits are tax free.
- You can get DLA or AA even if you are working or studying.
- There are no restrictions on how you can spend your DLA and AA money.
- Carers who are disabled or ill can also claim AA or DLA in their own right, even if they already get, or qualify for, Carer’s Allowance.
The application process can be long and complicated. Many carers help the person they are looking after to complete the claim form or complete it on their behalf. The more you know about these benefits the more likely it is that the person you are looking after will be able to make a successful claim.
Help with Council Tax
There are two main ways you may be able to get help to pay your Council Tax.
- Council Tax Benefit is a means-tested benefit paid to help people on a low income pay their Council Tax. The amount you get will depend on who lives with you and your income and savings.
- Council Tax bill reduction. There are also other ways to get help with your Council Tax bill. You may be able to get a discount or reduction on your bill, or in some cases, your property may be exempt.