BENEFITS EXPERT: How to access extra payments when looking after an elderly or disabled relative
Q: I currently work 16 hours/week at national minimum wage, I have a child aged 11 in education and receive Universal Credit as a top up for wages and my rent.
I also look after an elderly relative and was wondering if any help is available to me. I cannot claim Carer’s Allowance due to my earnings and reducing my hours of work so I’ll be below the earnings requirement for Carer’s Allowance is not an option. Is there additional help in this situation?
A: Universal Credit does include a Carer’s Element if you provide unpaid care for a severely disabled person. You do not have to receive Carer’s Allowance to have the additional element include in your UC calculation.
The person you provide care for must be severely disabled i.e. they must be getting either middle or higher rate DLA care component, standard or enhanced Personal Independence Payments for care/daily living or low or high rate Attendance Allowance.
You must also show you are providing regular and substantial caring responsibilities for the person you look after, in practice this means you spend at least 35 hours/week or more looking after the person in question.
If there is more than one carer and the other carer also gets UC then the carer’s element can only be paid to one person, it cannot be apportioned or shared.
Excluding any housing costs elements in your UC, if you meet the criteria for the carer’s element this would add an additional amount to your Universal Credit calculation of £168.81 for each assessment period. This would still be subject to reductions in your overall UC award such as your wages, other income, etc.
You should also check any benefits the person you care for gets, for example it is possible the person in question may get the Severe Disability Premium in their benefits.
If you claim the UC Carer’s Element then the person getting cared for will likely lose this premium and may then find themselves worse off (they will not lose their DLA/PIP/AA).
The Severe Disability Premium can be up to an extra £69.40/week. In this situation it is advisable that both you and your relative both get full advice and benefit checks before you proceed in going ahead.
Finally in addition to getting financial help you may also wish to claim Carer’s Credit, this does not provide financial help but instead helps towards your National Insurance payments for your State Pension.
You can claim this via the Gov.Uk website, you will already be getting similar protection if you get child benefit however these credits normally end when your child reaches 12 so when this happens you should look to protect you pension contributions by claiming the Carer’s Credit.