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Support For Carers

The term Carer is used to distinguish those who care voluntarily for a relative or friend, from paid Care Workers. 

According to research, there are around six million carers in the UK, between them saving the public purse billions every year! If you are the person who is wholly or mainly responsible for providing or organising care for a relative or friend, you will be regarded as a carer. You do not have to be related to, or living with the person you care for. If you are looking after a severely disabled person for at least 35 hours a week, you could get Carers Allowance.

What does all this mean for you as a carer?

Carers are entitled to a local authority assessment of their needs and local authorities have been given funding to provide support specifically for carers. This does not apply to Wales and Scotland, where any funding will be determined by the governments of those countries. Unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules regarding the available funding. It almost certainly depends on where you live.

As a carer, you may need some or all of the following:


  • Some time to yourself
  • Some time when you can go out, see friends, pursue other activities etc.
  • At least two or three undisturbed nights’ sleep each week
  • The possibility of lying in in the morning occasionally
  • A holiday or weekend break once or twice a year, or more often
  • A failsafe system in case of emergency – in particular, an agreed plan for how your dependent relative/friend would be cared for in the event of your illness or accident
  • Assistance with tasks which you cannot easily do by yourself
  • Training in caring eg how to lift and move your relative/friend safely
  • Information about what support is available
  • Enough support to enable you to go on working
  • Companionship



No one should feel guilty about having to seek support for needs such as these and any others not listed here. It is recognised how important the needs of carers are.

Your local authority is required to consult with service users and carers. There may be some sort of forum or meeting you can attend to make your views known. You should also discuss your needs with the social worker who undertakes your assessment. You may even feel like consulting your local Councillor or writing to the Director of Social Services. The evidence shows that, where carers feel properly supported and are supported from early in their caring career, they are much more likely to be able to continue caring over a longer period. This is likely to be better for the cared-for person and also much more cost effective for the local authority.

Carers have their own organisation – the Carers National Association tel: 0808 808 7777. This has done much to raise the profile of carers nationally and to lobby for improvements in the situation they face. It also has local support groups in many areas and is an excellent source of information. There are other organisations, such as The Princess Royal Trust for Carers (tel: 020 7480 7788) which also provides valued support services in some areas.


Carer’s Allowance

This is a non-contributory benefit for people aged 16 or over who are spending at least 35 hours a week looking after a severely disabled person. The disabled person, however, must be receiving Attendance Allowance or the equivalent rate of Disability Living Allowance.

You cannot receive Carer’s Allowance if you earn more than £100 per week. Your basic State Pension and other benefits may affect whether Carer’s Benefit can be paid. Carer’s Allowance is taxable and counts as income for means-tested benefits – but being entitled to Carer’s Allowance can increase entitlement to other income-related benefits.

It should be noted that the 35 hours of care given can include preparing, cleaning or just being in attendance as a precaution. Further information and the current weekly rate of payment can be obtained at www.direct.gov.uk


The Voluntary Sector

There are many voluntary organisations which can provide ‘specific condition’ care information and/or services, not readily available elsewhere – such as The Alzheimer’s Society and the Parkinson’s Disease Society. In some cases, special Helpline Call Services are also available.

There are societies or associations in existence for many of the conditions which cause frailty and dependence in later life. You can click at the end of this section to find out what is listed. We will also provide a direct link into the website of these organisations, where possible.

Some of the organisations have a network of local branches. Branches may provide specific services, such as day care or sitting services. They may also provide informal support and companionship. A call to the head office of the organisation concerned will be the best way to establish whether there is a branch in your area.

Crossroads is an organisation which has a large number of branches throughout the UK and provides free sitting services to support carers. Some of the branches are no longer affiliated to the parent body, so you are more likely to be able to find out whether there is a branch in your area from your Social Services Department than by ringing Crossroads head office.

In addition to the specific organisations, there are more general ones, such as Age UK, which provide publications, fact sheets and information call centres relating to a vast range of subjects. Counsel and Care for the Elderly is also an extremely helpful source of information



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