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2 May 2020

What financial help is available for carers during coronavirus lockdown?

The financial cost of caring for someone is greater than ever, with many carers putting in extra hours of unpaid support while spending more on food and household bills
  • Originally published: 2 May 2020
  • Last updated: 2 November 2020

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 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.

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.

Rent and mortgage costs

If you own your home and have been financially affected by the coronavirus crisis, you may be entitled to a mortgage break. See our advice on how to apply.

Keep up to date with all the latest coronavirus news and advice from Which?