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Paying for social care (older people)

Help for carers

This page covers:
• What is a ‘carer’?
• Financial help for carers
• Support groups and practical help for carers
• Ways to find out about help for carers

Many of the people we spoke to were carers. ‘Carer’ is the word used to describe a person who is looking after a relative or friend who couldn’t manage without their help. The carers we spoke to were daughters, sons, wives and husbands of older people. They didn’t always think of themselves as carers, just as relatives helping out. Often they had only heard the term carer since they started helping their relative. But it is an important term because there is help available for people looking after relatives or friends, and that help is usually advertised as help for carers.

Financial help for carers

Some people told us they were able to claim Carer’s Allowance but not everyone is eligible. For example, the person must be providing care for at least 35 hours a week for someone receiving a benefit such as Attendance Allowance. There is more information about this in Benefits and other help with funding care. Jacky was not eligible but she was able to claim Carer’s credits toward her National Insurance payments. Carer’s credits help to fill gaps in a person’s National Insurance record so that stopping paid work to take on a caring role doesn’t affect the carer’s ability to qualify for a State Pension.

 

Jacky found out about Carer’s Credits by pure chance.

Jacky found out about Carer’s Credits by pure chance.

Age at interview: 65
Sex: Female
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But then, this was quite by, pure by chance, and it was another relative, I think, in the care home, after both my parents were in the care home, I, we were having a conversation with another daughter who was in a similar situation, and she sort of said, “Well have you applied for carer credit?” So I thought she mean, so I said, “Oh you mean the carer allowance?” And, “No, no, no, no,” she said, “this is not a benefit, this is getting your national insurance contributions.” Because of course being, it wouldn’t have mattered if the pension hadn’t changed, because I was almost sixty when I, when I gave up work; so if the pension hadn’t changed and I’m waiting till sixty-six it wouldn’t have been an issue. But of course as well as losing my income that meant I, to maximise my state pension, I needed another six years of national insurance contributions.

Frances told us she had arranged a special ‘carer contract’ with her employer so that she could work flexible hours to fit around caring for her dad.

Local councils and charities sometimes offer grants to help carers. The purpose of these grants is to give carers a bit of time to themselves. Rosemary told us that carers in her local council could apply for a few hundred pounds to help pay for having some time off from caring, such as a weekly art class or a weekend away.

Support groups and practical help for carers

People told us about local support groups where carers could meet for a chat with other carers. Often these groups were for people with dementia to go along to with their carers but some were just for the carers. People said that these groups were good for getting out of the house, for sharing stories and picking up new information. Some groups ran courses or had talks about what help was available for carers.

 

Peter went to a monthly carers group for men run by Age UK.

Peter went to a monthly carers group for men run by Age UK.

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During that time Myra had started to show obvious signs, mostly inability to understand- that’s frontotemporal, I think, I didn’t know that at the time, and also she started to be unable to communicate very clearly, and that got worse as we visited. The doctor didn’t really give us much information; he said to me, when she was obviously getting in need of a bit more attention, because in the first months there wasn’t anything obvious he said, “Well, you know, there’s a men’s care group meets here every month and it’s run by Age UK, or whatever they were called at the time. So I, he recommended I attend, which I did, and I started then to pick up information.

 

Margaret found speaking to other women at the local Dementia Café helpful.

Margaret found speaking to other women at the local Dementia Café helpful.

Age at interview: 79
Sex: Female
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But when I went there I noticed that they were also advertising dementia cafes via the Alzheimer’s people; so that’s when I really, we started, with reluctance on my husband’s part, to go there, and he mostly just sat there, he, whereas the other fellows and that; they were mostly men, which was quite good, that had the, that you know, so I was able to talk to other women really and that was, that was most helpful, and also the workers themselves.

 

Rosemary described the activities at the local group her husband went to.

Rosemary described the activities at the local group her husband went to.

Age at interview: 65
Sex: Female
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There were various group activities you could join in there was a, an activity programme whereby they would come and collect Graham and they would, he would go with a group of people to, for example, the cinema or to a wildlife park or whatever for half a day and I think I had to make a small contribution towards transport costs but other than that, it was free; and that was something directly provided for him to enable me to have time away. So that was good. It didn’t help that he actually didn’t enjoy those things terribly much; so we were a bit limited in terms of what was going to work and what wasn’t, you know. He was an incredibly outgoing and sociable person and loved people, he would, you know, go off and, parties, he was the one who’d say, “Hello, I’m Graham.” And natter, natter, natter. But he wasn’t going to suddenly take on doing things that he’d never done before, you know?

A downside of groups just for carers was that someone needed to be paid to look after the person needing care while the carer was out, and this could put people off attending.

 

Frances refused to pay for someone to look after her dad while she was at a carers group.

Frances refused to pay for someone to look after her dad while she was at a carers group.

Age at interview: 52
Sex: Female
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So who was going to care for my dad when I was attending the group and I do get a bit opinionated and so I refused to go. It was, I was like saying to them, “Well what is the point? If I’m paying somebody to look after my dad just to come to see you.” You know, I could find out a lot of stuff on the internet. By this time the Alzheimer’s Society was heavily involved in these dementia cafes and so I got in touch with the, the nearest Alzheimer’s Society coordinator was in [name of town] but it was, she could drive out to, you know, so, I contacted them for advice; there’s a lot of books out there so I read a lot of books.

Ways of finding out about help for carers

People told us that one of the ways they found out about help for carers was by talking to family and friends. This was particularly helpful for people who didn’t like joining groups or going to places like Dementia Cafés. People also said that booklets, helplines or drop-in centres and the internet were good sources of information. Bella told us that she had a carer’s review once a year at her GP practice and a flag in her notes to say she was a carer. This flag meant the GP or nurse knew which people were carers so could ask them how they were coping and help them to look after their health and wellbeing. 

A few people told us that professionals, like social workers or managers of day centres, had been really good at spotting how tired they were and suggesting they get help. Caring for someone, whether or not they live in the same household, can be exhausting but help is available - anyone who is caring for someone else can ask their local council adult social care department for a carer’s assessment. They can have a carer’s assessment even if the person they care for has not had a needs assessment or any contact with the council. A carer’s assessment looks at what kinds of help can make a carer’s life easier. Carers' assessments are free.

 

The manager of the day centre her husband went to noticed Rosemary was worn out.

The manager of the day centre her husband went to noticed Rosemary was worn out.

Age at interview: 65
Sex: Female
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I remember getting to the point where I was obviously very tired and generally struggling and one day she said, “How are you?” And I said, “Hmm, yeah, OK, not too bad.” And we got into talking about support for Graham and I said, “Oh I think probably I can manage, you know, caring for him at home for, I don’t know, the next six months or so.” So I had begun to recognise that there was a point coming up when I was going to have to think about other ways of supporting him. And she looked at me and she said, “Do you think so, Rosemary? Do you think so, six months, really? You might, couple of months maybe but really I think the time has come when you should be thinking about other things.” And although it took me aback actually, as I said, it was probably the single thing that helped me most of all. And at that point I thought right, maybe now is the time to try and find some respite care.

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