Help for Carers
Around 1 in 8 adults in the UK undertake caring responsibilities, and Carers UK estimate that around 6,000 people per day take on a caring responsibility for the first time.
Unpaid carers are absolutely vital to the whole care system, saving the country around £119 billion per year.
Caring for a friend or relative can however be a very stressful task, and in some circumstances cause other health problems such as bad backs due to having the lift people as part of the caring role. Carers can also find it difficult to maintain employment while being a carer, and around 1 in 5 end up giving up their jobs altogether. This can then cause financial difficulties for the carer and by implication potentially lead to problems for the person being cared for.
In making your plan for the future it is very important to take into account help and support for your principal carers and there is some available, even if sometimes this appears to be difficult to find.
If it is possible to avoid giving up work then this may be desirable. As a result of the Work and Families Act 2006 people with caring responsibilities have a right to request from their employer more flexible working arrangements including the capacity to work from home more often, have different working hours or enter into job-share arrangements. Employers can decline such a request but they have to have reasons and the employee has a right of appeal if they feel their case has not been given due consideration.
There is also older legislation that entitles carers to take time off in an emergency to look after the person they are caring for if there has been a breakdown in the normal arrangements or the person’s health has deteriorated or has had an accident. Such leave would however normally be unpaid, but it is important to find out what the employer’s policy is in relation to carers because they may be more generous.
All carers who provide regular care to others are entitled to request a Carers Assessment from the Council. This will focus on the risk to the person’s ability to continue with the caring role. It is not necessary for the person being cared for themselves to be in receipt of services from the Council. This could then provide access to a whole range of support services. This will probably include respite services, where either the cared for person will be cared for on a short break in a care home or supported living environment, or alternatively someone will come and stay with them or provide cover in their own home so that the carer can go away. Allied to this are sitting services which provide someone to sit with the cared for person while the carer goes out. Other services that might assist include telecare and equipment to help with the role of caring. Use our post-code checker to find out who you should contact about this.
If a carer is not in paid employment then some financial assistance might be available through Carers Allowance. As of June 2015 this is a maximum of £62.10 per week, but will be reduced if the person is in receipt of certain other benefits. The carer must provide at least 35 hours care per week, and the cared for person themselves must be in receipt of Attendance Allowance, Disability Living Allowance or the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) Daily Living component.
There is no getting away from the fact caring can be a very challenging and stressful as well as rewarding role. There is almost certainly a local carers support group who can help provide necessary advice and emotional support and if you feel that you need some counselling then the Counselling Directory may be a good place to start looking.
Many organisations also recognise the importance of a carer to enable the cared for person to be able to get out and about, for example you can get what is called a "Cinema Exhibitors Association Card" which will enable Carers to get a free cinema ticket if they are accompanying the person they are caring for.
Advice on all these matters can come through The Carers Direct Help Line (see sources of advice and information).