In this article
What is Carer’s Allowance?
Carer’s Allowance is the main benefit for carers. You might be able to get it if your child is on the care component of Disability Living Allowance at the middle or highest rate or if they get the daily living component of Personal Independence Payment.
It is not means-tested, so it does not matter what savings you have, and most forms of income are ignored (for example any occupational or personal pension you receive). However, if you work you can only get Carer’s Allowance if your earnings after deductions are no more than £132 per week.
In Scotland, Carer’s Allowance is to be replaced with a new benefit called Carer’s Assistance. This process was expected to start in 2022 but may be delayed because of the Coronavirus outbreak.
Who qualifies for Carer’s Allowance?
You qualify for this benefit if you provide at least 35 hours of care per week to someone who gets one of:
- The care component of Disability Living Allowance at the middle or highest rate.
- Either rate of the daily living component of Personal Independence Payment or the new Adult Disability Payment in Scotland.
- The middle or highest rate of the care component of Child Disability Payment (a new benefit that is replacing Disability Living Allowance in Scotland).
- Attendance allowance at any rate. This is a benefit for older people.
You also must meet certain tests linked to your immigration status and the length of time you have spent in the UK.
If you share the care of a disabled child with someone else and you each provide at least 35 hours a week care, only one of you can get Carer’s Allowance for that child.
There are additional tests if you work or study.
Can I work and still get Carer’s Allowance?
If you work, you must not earn more than the ‘earnings limit’ of £132 per week.
In calculating your earnings for Carer’s Allowance purposes, certain deductions can be made from your gross wages. This not only includes any tax and national insurance you pay, but also:
- 50% of any contributions you make into a works or personal pension scheme. For example, if you pay £20 per week into a pension scheme, £10 will be deducted from your weekly earnings calculation.
- Any alternative care costs you have that enables you to work. This covers not only any costs you have for your disabled child (regardless of their age) but also any childcare costs for other children you have aged under 16. Care costs count so long as you are not paying a close relative – there is no requirement that you pay a registered childcare provider. The maximum you can deduct for alternative care costs is half of your earnings.
- Any expenses you have that are wholly, exclusively and necessarily incurred in carrying out your work e.g. if you have to buy tools or specialist clothing or you have to travel between work sites (travel between work and home does not count).
If your earnings after these deductions are £132 per week or less, you can keep all of your Carer’s Allowance. If your earnings after these deductions are even 1p more than £132 per week, you will lose all of your Carer’s Allowance.
If your earnings are slightly above the earnings limit, you will be able to continue receiving Carer’s Allowance as a result of making the deductions mentioned above. For example, if you increase the amount that you pay into a pension scheme, this may help you to retain Carer’s Allowance.
Depending on your circumstances, this may be preferable to reducing your weekly hours (and earnings). For example, if you are a single parent on Working Tax Credit, you will need to work at least 16 hours a week to retain it. But working 16 hours on National Living Wage means your earnings will be £152 a week. This is above the Carer’s Allowance earnings threshold. The only way you might be able to get both Carer’s Allowance and Working Tax Credit is if you have deductions, such as a significant pension contribution or alternative care costs.
If your earnings vary over time, they should be averaged out, although the period used is at the discretion of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). If there is no recognisable cycle of earnings that repeats itself, guidance suggests that they should average your earnings over five weeks or any other period that they think gives a more accurate figure.
If you are self-employed, your average earnings are normally based on your last year’s accounts unless there has been a significant change in your business.
Only your earnings are counted. If you have a partner who works, their earnings are ignored.
If you get Universal Credit, and your earnings are too high to get Carer’s Allowance, you should still qualify for an extra Universal Credit payment called the carer addition.
Can I study and still get Carer’s Allowance?
If you study, you cannot get Carer’s Allowance if you are in full time education. Generally you are treated as in full-time education and unable to get Carer’s Allowance if your course is described as full time by the course provider. However there can be exceptions to this – for example if you have been granted exemptions from parts of the course.
Even if a course is described as part-time, you still cannot get Carer’s Allowance if it involves 21 hours or more ‘supervised study’ each week. Supervised study does not just mean the hours of contact you have with teachers or tutors at your school, college or university. Work that you do elsewhere e.g. at home is also treated as ‘supervised’ if it is study that is required to meet the reasonable expectations of the course.
How much Carer’s Allowance will I get?
Carer’s Allowance is £69.70 a week.
You can only get one award of Carer’s Allowance even if you are looking after more than one person.
Claiming Carer’s Allowance can also help protect your right to a state retirement pension. This is because you will receive class 1 National Insurance credits for every week you get Carer’s Allowance.
Carer’s allowance claimants in Scotland receive supplementary payments from the Scottish Government. This is done by a lump sum payment twice a year.
How to claim Carer’s Allowance
You can apply on-line using the government’s Carer’s Allowance webpage. In Northern Ireland you claim online at the NI Direct website.
Alternatively if you would prefer to use a paper claim form you can call the Carer’s Allowance Unit on 0800 731 0297. To make a claim in Northern Ireland call the Benefit Enquiry Line on 0800 587 0912.
Carer’s Allowance should be backdated to the start of the DLA/PIP award so long as you claim within 3 months of receiving the decision awarding your child DLA or PIP.
How does Carer’s Allowance affect other benefits?
If you are claiming a means-tested benefit such as Income Support, Housing Benefit or Universal Credit, any Carer’s Allowance you get is taken into account as income when calculating these other means-tested benefits. However to ensure you are better off an extra amount of £38.85 per week known as the ‘carer premium’ (carer element of £168.81 per month in Universal Credit) is added to that means-tested benefit.
You cannot be paid Carer’s Allowance at the same time as certain other non-means-tested benefits like contributory Employment and Support Allowance or State Pension.
However it is still worthwhile making a claim for Carer’s Allowance in these circumstances. By making a claim you will establish an “underlying entitlement” to Carer’s Allowance. This means you will be counted as a carer for means-tested benefits, and these will be calculated more generously with a carer premium being added into your payments.
Carer’s Allowance is treated as income for tax credits purposes. Despite this you are usually left better off after making a claim. This is because the amount of Carer’s Allowance paid is greater than any drop in tax credits.
In order to avoid an overpayment it is important that you let the Tax Credit Office know that you are getting Carer’s Allowance.
Will a claim for Carer’s Allowance affect the benefits of the person I’m looking after?
So long as you claim as the carer of a dependent child, a claim for carer’s allowance will not have any impact on the benefits that they receive.
Claiming Carer’s Allowance for a disabled adult is also not normally a problem. However if they are a disabled adult who receives a payment known as the ‘severe disability premium’ as part of a means-tested benefit claim, they will be left worse off if you get Carer’s Allowance for them.
Factsheet: Carer’s AllowanceDownload now
Parent guide: Money Matters England/Wales – a checklist when your child has additional needsDownload now
Parent guide: Money Matters Scotland – A checklist for when your child has additional needsDownload now
The Helpful guide for families with disabled children
Our all-in-one book with all the information and help you need to enjoy family life.