What is Carer’s Allowance and who gets it?

If you care for someone for at least 35 hours a week, you may be entitled to claim Carer’s Allowance.

To qualify for Carer’s Allowance, the person you’re caring for has to be receiving certain benefits.

Carer’s Allowance is not means-tested, so it doesn’t matter how much you (and your husband/wife/partner) have in savings. However, you can only get Carer’s Allowance if you earn less than £128 a week from work after tax, National Insurance and expenses.

You can claim Carer’s Allowance if you live in England, Scotland or Wales. You can’t claim it in Northern Ireland, as there’s a different system.

Understanding the weekly earnings limit

The rules say that you can earn up to £128 a week, and still claim Carer’s Allowance. This figure generally increases by a few pounds each April, at the start of the new tax year. However, you may be able to earn considerably more than this amount, because you can take certain expenses, as well as tax, from your earnings figure.

You can deduct:

  • The income tax you pay
  • The National Insurance you pay
  • Half of any pension contributions you make, whether that’s to a workplace or private pension.
  • Up to half your earnings for money you spend on childcare (if your child is under 16) or care for the ill/disabled person you’re caring for, while you’re at work. So, for example, if you earn £250 a week and spend £250 a week on childcare while you’re at work, you could deduct £125 a week of that (50%).

If you earn more than £128 a week when you’ve taken your tax, National Insurance, pension contributions and childcare/caring costs into account, you cannot continue to receive Carer’s Allowance.

How much will you get?

If you’re eligible for Carer’s Allowance, you’ll get £67.25 a week in the 2020/21 tax year. The allowance is taxable, but you’ll only have to pay tax on it if you have other sources of taxable income which take you over your £12,500 personal allowance. The personal allowance is the amount you can earn each year without having to pay tax.

Who can claim Carer’s Allowance?

You can claim Carer’s Allowance if you care for someone for at least 35 hours a week. The person you’re caring for doesn’t have to be related to you. However, there are other conditions that you, and the person you’re caring for, have to meet.

Conditions that you have to meet:

  • You must be be 16 or over.
  • You normally live in England, Wales or Scotland.
  • You must have lived in England, Wales or Scotland for two out of the last three years (unless you’re a refugee).
  • You’re not in full-time education, or studying for 21 hours a week or more.

You can’t claim Carer’s Allowance if you’re receiving the state pension.

The person you’re caring for must be receiving one of these benefits before you apply for Carer’s Allowance:

  • Personal Independence Payment: daily living component
  • Disability Living Allowance: middle or highest care rate.
  • Attendance Allowance.
  • Constant Attendance Allowance at the normal rate paid with the Industrial Injuries or War Pensions Schemes.
  • Armed Forces Independence Payment.

How the 35 hour caring threshold is calculated

You have to care for someone for 35 hours a week in order to get Carer’s Allowance. The rules as to what counts as ‘care’ in that time need a little explaining. The following information is taken from the Carer’s UK website, which explains it very well.

They say that the 35 hours can include;

  • Time you spend helping the person (for example, with feeding, dressing and so on).
  • Time you spend ‘keeping an eye’ on them. This could include making sure they don’t leave the house if they would come to harm by doing this.
  • Time you spend doing things like cooking for them.

The rules say that you can only claim Carer’s Allowance for the weeks where you actually provide care for 35 hours a week. The week runs from Sunday to Saturday. You can’t add up the care you provide and average it out over a number of weeks.

Taking a break from providing care

The Carers UK website says that you can take a break from caring and still claim Carer’s Allowance. This is useful information that isn’t on the Gov.uk website, so might be missed.

  • You can take a break of up to four weeks every 26 weeks (six months) and you will still receive Carer’s Allowance. In order to qualify, you must have been providing care for at least 35 hours a week for 22 out of the last 26 weeks.

  • If you or the person you’re caring for have been in hospital, you can count up to eight weeks of a hospital stay in that time. However, the person you’re caring for must continue to receive the qualifying benefits throughout that time.

  • You can get Carer’s Allowance for up to 12 weeks if you go into hospital. In order to qualify, you must have been providing care for at least 35 hours a week for 14 or more weeks out of the last 26.

If you’ve had a break from caring for more than 12 weeks in the last 26, your Carer’s Allowance will stop.

If you’ve had to have a temporary break from caring because you or the person you care for has contracted coronavirus, or has to self-isolate, you will still be entitled to receive Carer’s Allowance. This applies for a period of eight months from 13 March 2020.

Protecting your state pension entitlement if you take a break from caring

If you take a break from caring and you don’t qualify for Carer’s Allowance any longer, you may be able to get Carer’s Credit, which will protect your National Insurance record. Carer’s Credit won’t pay you any money, but it will credit you with NI contributions. Find out more about Carer’s Credit works here.

How to claim Carer’s Allowance

If you live in England, Wales and Scotland:

  • click here to apply online or download a claim form

  • request a claim pack DS700 (or DS700(SP) if you are getting a State Pension) by calling the Carer’s Allowance Unit on 0800 731 0297.

If you live in Northern Ireland:

  • click here to apply online or to download a claim form

  • request a claim pack DS700 (or DS700(SP) if you are getting a State Retirement Pension) by calling the Disability and Carers Service on 0800 587 0912.

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