The coronavirus pandemic has changed all our lives, but it has disproportionately affected vulnerable family members and carers.
In the UK, around 6.5 million people provide unpaid care to family or friends who are in later life, disabled or have a long-term health condition. A Which? survey found that 64% of members caring for an older person have had to make changes to their normal caring routine during the crisis.
A new report by Carers UK has also detailed the difficulties that carers are facing during this time. According to the charity’s survey of nearly 5,000 unpaid carers, 70% are now having to provide more care than before – on average, 10 extra hours of unpaid care a week. More than a third are providing that additional support because of the closure or reduction of local social care services.
At the same time, many have financial worries and are finding it harder than ever to pay their bills. The Carers UK research found that 81% of carers have had to spend more money than normal during the crisis. Many said this was due to higher food costs and an increase in household bills.
Here, we explore where carers might be able to get financial support, and some ways to cut bills during the crisis.
Changes to Carer’s Allowance
If you’re caring for a friend or a relative, you may be able to claim Carer’s Allowance. In light of the pandemic, the criteria for claiming this benefit have changed.
If you provide care remotely during the coronavirus outbreak, including giving emotional support over the phone or online, this counts towards the 35 hours a week eligibility requirement for Carer’s Allowance.
Plus, if you live in England or Wales, you can continue to receive Carer’s Allowance even if you need to take a temporary break from caring because you or the person you care for have symptoms of the coronavirus.
These changes will be regularly reviewed by the government.
Social care support
If the person you’re looking after receives social care, needs to start receiving social care, or their care needs have changed, bear in mind that there may be changes to care services during the emergency period.
New temporary legislation means that (for the moment) local councils can choose not to meet all their social care obligations under the Care Act 2014. However, councils are still expected to comply with their duties to meet people’s needs, wherever possible.
- Find out more about how the new measures affect carers.
Help with household bills
For people who are struggling to pay energy bills or are unable to top up the meter because of self-isolation, their energy company has to support them during this time. On 19 March, the government announced new measures for those having difficulty paying their gas or electricity bills as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
The BBC has also delayed its plan to scrap free TV licences for over-75s until 1 August 2020, giving as many as 3.7 million people a break during the emergency period.
- Find out more about what help is available with bills during the coronavirus crisis.
Rent and mortgage costs
If you own your home and have been financially affected by the coronavirus crisis, you may be entitled to a minimum three-month mortgage break. See our advice on how to apply.
Or if you rent, your landlord may not be able to evict you. Tenants who get an eviction notice after 26 March 2020 will be entitled to three months’ notice before their landlord can apply to court. Find out more about help for tenants.
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