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.

Age at interview 65

Gender Female

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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.

Gender Male

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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.

Age at interview 52

Gender Female

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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 The Alzheimer’s Society’s 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.

Gender Female

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How paying for care affects families

This page covers: Worries about inheritance, Discussions with family about money and care, Getting a balance between providing care and paying for care. Many older...