Get a carer’s assessment
Older or disabled people needing care should always have a community care assessment for their needs, but carers also have the right to request a carer’s assessment from their local council. Importantly, they don’t need to be caring full-time to have an assessment of their needs.
Our research on “sandwich carers” shows that if you already have young children and work, then starting to provide care and support to an older parent as well can have a huge impact on your life, even if it isn’t full-time.
Carer’s assessments are intended to look not just at carers’ caring responsibilities but at their ability to work, take part in leisure activities and carry on with their lives alongside caring. Services might include breaks from caring, ongoing practical support or telecare support for carers.
Councils don’t yet have a duty to provide services to carers following the assessment (although this duty is part of the government’s proposed reforms). Support varies according to the local authority area and carers would have to meet eligibility criteria to receive services. However, even if carers aren’t eligible for support from their council the assessment should signpost them to other support like local charities and support groups, benefits, or advice and information.
Get a full benefits check
Many people have no idea how to navigate the welfare system and it might not be their first instinct to check if you are entitled to any support from benefits when they start to care. But it is vital to check what carers or the people they care for are entitled to – whether it is attendance allowance for an older parent to help them cover care costs, a carers’ council tax discount, or carer’s allowance if they have given up work to care.
Some of these benefits depend on income or savings levels but others are designed to provide support to carers, disabled or older people regardless of their finances.
In addition, the government is making big changes to the benefits system and it may be important to establish entitlement to benefits now, before the changes, as this may offer families’ some protections from future changes.
Because the benefits system is complicated it is always best to check everything with an expert, Carers UK has an email and phone advice line and charities such as Age UK and Citizens Advice also provide detailed information and advice.
Check to see what support their employers offer
Three million people juggle work with caring for an older or disabled loved one, and employers are increasingly recognising the need to offer flexibility and support.
While caring for an older or disabled loved one doesn’t have the same recognition at work as childcare, most carers now have the right to request flexible working. The Equality Act gives carers some protection from discrimination at work as a result of caring responsibilities. Our work with Employers for Carers demonstrates the increasing number of employers who have carers’ HR policies, which may include carers’ leave, support networks at work or other advice and information on caring.
Although many carers still face a daily struggle to get help, these rights were hard-won and give carers’ the legal basis to fight for support.
To give carers a comprehensive guide to all their rights and entitlements, Carers UK has also published a new carers rights guide to mark carers rights day.
The Guardian by Emily Holzhausen