If you spend more than 35 hours a week caring for a relative or friend who is ill or disabled, you might be entitled to claim carer’s allowance.
What is carer's allowance?
Carer’s allowance is a government benefit to help you out financially if you care for someone close to you. On this page, find out how much money you can get, whether you qualify for the allowance and how to apply.
Follow our top tips to make the application process as smooth as possible, and use our checklist to make sure you have all the information you need to apply.
How much is carer's allowance?
The rate of carer’s allowance is £62.70 a week (2017-18) with a £10 Christmas bonus in December.
Can I get carer's allowance?
You may qualify for carer’s allowance if you meet certain conditions. You must:
- spend at least 35 hours a week caring for someone who is receiving a qualifying disability benefit (see below), but you don’t have to live with them or be related to them
- be 16 years old or over
- live in England, Scotland or Wales (find out about the rules for Northern Ireland)
- not be in full-time education
- earn £116 or less, per week, after deductions.
What counts as a 'qualifying disability benefit'?
The person you care for must receive one of the following benefits:
- either rate of PIP (personal independence payment) daily living component
- the higher or middle rate care component of DLA (disability living allowance)
- attendance allowance
- armed forces independence payment (AFIP).
You may also be eligible if the person you care for gets the constant attendance allowance (CAA).
What counts as 'earnings'?
You can get carer's allowance only if your income is less than £116 per week after tax. This £116 is 'earned' income only, so does not take into account benefits such as attendance allowance, disability living allowance or personal independence payments.
The ‘overlapping benefits’ rule means that, although you may qualify for two or more earnings-replacements benefits, you can't receive more than one benefit at the same time.
You can't usually get carer’s allowance if you receive one or more of the following benefits:
- state retirement pension
- contributory employment and support allowance
- incapacity benefit
- maternity allowance
- bereavement or widow’s benefits
- severe disablement allowance
- contribution-based jobseeker’s allowance.
However, even if you think you might be exempt from carer’s allowance under the ‘overlapping benefits’ rule, it's still worth making a claim. As long as you meet all the conditions for carer’s allowance, you may be eligible to receive an ‘underlying entitlement’, which could give you an additional carer’s premium on your pension credit.
What if the person I'm caring for isn't sure what benefits they're receiving?
You can help the person you’re caring for find out what benefits they are on by encouraging them to call the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). If they lack mental capacity, and have a Power of Attorney (POA) in place, speak to their attorney regarding their benefits.
If there is no POA in place, but they would like you to deal with the DWP on their behalf, you can apply for the role of appointee. This gives you responsibility for making, and maintaining, any benefit claims. For further details see the GOV.UK website.
If I claim other benefits in addition to the carer’s allowance, will I be affected by the benefit cap?
The benefit cap sets a limit on the total amount of benefits that working-age households can receive. The cap aims to make the welfare system fairer, by ensuring that households in receipt of out-of-work benefits don’t have higher incomes than households which work and pay tax.
Carers UK felt that the benefit cap was unfairly penalising carers, many of whom already faced financial hardship as a result of their caring role. In January 2016, following a successful campaign by Carers UK, the government announced that it would change the law making carers in receipt of carer’s allowance exempt from the benefit cap.
What do I need to know about carer's allowance?
If more than one carer looks after the same person, only one of you can get carer’s allowance.
If you care for more than one relative or friend, you can claim carer’s allowance for only one person.
If you were entitled to carer’s allowance before making a claim, you can ask for it to be backdated for up to three months.
After you’ve received carer’s allowance for at least 22 weeks, you can take up to four weeks' break from caring and still receive the benefit if you, or the person you are caring for, goes on holiday. Read more about how to arrange and fund breaks from caring in our guide to Respite care.
If you, or the person you’re caring for, goes into residential care or hospital, you can still get carer’s allowance for up to 12 weeks.
How do I claim carer's allowance?
You can apply for carer’s allowance online on the GOV.UK website or by filling in and posting a DS700 form.
Online (England, Scotland and Wales): You can apply online on the GOV.UK website (see our Useful organisations and websites for carer benefits page) and you’ll see the results of your claim immediately once it's submitted. You don’t need a signature or password to claim carer's allowance online, which makes it easy to use.
By post: Download and print this form if you would prefer to fill it in by hand. The address to post the form to is in the 'What to do now' section on the form.
In Northern Ireland, see the nidirect website.
How to fill in the carer's allowance form
Applying for carer’s allowance may seem daunting at first, as the form is long with some detailed questions. But don’t worry, our checklist will guide you through the process and help you to fill it in correctly.
What to check before filling in the form
- Check that you’re entitled to carer’s allowance by looking through the government's eligibility criteria.
- Talk to the person you’re caring for and get their permission to apply, as your claim could reduce some of their benefits. For example, if the person you're caring for receives pension credit with a severe disability premium, they could lose their severe disability premium, which could also affect their housing benefit and any council tax reduction.
- Have the following at hand: your National Insurance number, bank details, your latest payslip or P45 (if you recently stopped working) and the NI number or disability living allowance reference of the person you care for.
- If you’ve completed any educational courses in the last few months, have the details handy.
- If you’ve been working recently, including if you're self-employed, you need to have information about your employer and earnings, as well as any pension contributions and childcare payments.
- You also need to know the details of any statutory sick pay, maternity pay, paternity pay or adoption pay that you’ve received during the time period you’re claiming for.
Top five tips for filling in the carer's allowance form
- If you complete the form online, it will make sure you meet basic eligibility criteria before taking your details. So you’re more likely to get it right first time, and receive your first allowance payment sooner.
- On average, GOV.UK says the online claims takes less than 30 minutes to complete. However, you do need to complete it within 90 minutes so, although you can take a break, bear in mind that you will be timed out after an hour and a half.
- If you get stuck filling in the form, the government has a dedicated helpline. Call the Carer’s Allowance Unit on 0345 608 4321 for advice. Lines are open Monday to Thursday 8.30am to 5pm, and Friday 8.30am to 4.30pm. It's closed on public holidays.
- You can also order the claim form in large print or braille by calling the helpline.
- If you have speech or hearing difficulties, you can reach the Carer’s Allowance Unit by textphone on 0345 604 5312.
Which? guide to helping loved ones in later life
If you are looking for ways to help a relative stay living at home for longer, or need to find out about the different care options available, this downloadable guide explains your choices and how to find out more. It offers an introduction to choosing sheltered or residential care, plus advice on choosing the best products to aid independent living.
- Carer’s assessment: find out whether you're eligible for extra help if you are providing substantial care for a relative or friend.
- Respite care: caring for someone is difficult - find out why it’s important to take a break, and what respite options are available.
- Useful organisations and websites: use this page for contact details for further support. Carers UK has an online forum, as well as its advice line for carers.
Page last reviewed: April 2017
Next review due: April 2018