Care and the care sector has been very much in the news over the past couple of weeks, with a new tax planned to build the capacity of care in the UK. However, what about those carers who are providing care that aren’t part of the formal care system?
It is inevitable that many of us will care for a relative, partner or friend with a disability or long-term health condition in our lifetimes. There are already an estimated 6 million carers in the UK and over 2 million more people become new carers every year. So it’s highly likely that you’re already a carer yourself, or you know someone who’s a carer.
The financial realities of care
Life as a carer can prove stressful, juggling employment with caring responsibilities, navigating the difficulties of the complex welfare benefit system, and keeping yourself above the poverty line. Taking on caring responsibilities can also often be unexpected, so understandably can be a shock to the system, and often life changing for the carer as well as the person being cared for.
Without access to the right support this can take a serious toll on the carer’s quality of life. Critically the most immediate impacts tend to be personal finances and mental health, both of which can also have a major impact on their capacity as a carer.
Recent research from Carers UK also found that 10% of carers in the UK are from a Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) background. Worryingly the report found that more than 60,000 BAME carers in England said they were actually in poor health themselves, slightly higher than ‘White British’ carers, presenting a worrying picture. Particularly as the research shows that BAME carers provide more care proportionately than White British carers, and therefore putting them at greater risk of ill-health, loss of paid employment and social exclusion.
Unpaid carers take a huge burden off the NHS and Local Authorities when it comes to spending.
In 2019 it was estimated by Carers UK that carers actually save the economy £132 billion per year, a significant average of £19,336 per carer. This reinforces the substantial contribution carers are making not only to society, to family and friends, but also to the public purse – albeit it doesn’t appear that this is reflected in social policy.
Carers are susceptible to poverty
It is a sad fact that, despite these savings, carers are highly likely to be at risk of poverty in the UK. The majority of carers are of working age and 5 million people in the UK are juggling caring responsibilities with work – that’s 1 in 7 of the total UK workforce who juggle low paid work and care.
To make this worse, the welfare benefit system can prove difficult for carers to access. For example, a carer can’t earn more than £128 a week on average to be eligible for Carers Allowance and needs to care for the person 35 hours a week minimum. Even for those eligible, the payments are as low as £67.60 a week which rarely makes up for lost income through reducing hours to provide capacity for caring responsibilities. The carer’s element of Universal Credit is £163.73 a month. Again, this is low in comparison to other benefits in the UK.
The system supporting those needing care is also tricky to navigate. Critically, the person being cared for needs to be on a qualifying disability benefit before a carers allowance application can be made, and this is something families find difficult to do without support – more awareness of this issue and the sources of support available is critical to ensuring carers can access the benefits they need to support them in their lives while they take on the huge responsibility of a caring role.
4 practical steps carers can take to maximise their income
- Get a full benefit check for both the person being cared for and the carer as soon as possible, to make sure both are getting everything that you are entitled to. Remember the person being cared for will need to be on a qualifying disability benefit before the carer is entitled to anything so will need support with the correct application process Talk to Citizens Advice as early as possible if you need help.
- Arrange a Needs Assessment and a Home Assessment from your local authority to make sure the person being cared for gets all the assistance they are entitled to. Make a list of all the person’s care needs and whether they are being met or not. Try your best not to downplay the condition and needs that they have – be honest, but thorough, and asking someone else to check it to make sure you haven’t missed anything is always a good idea.
- Get a Carers Assessment from your local authority. Make sure you make a list of all the tasks and challenges you face as a carer – again ask someone to check this if you can, as they may help you to think of things you didn’t. Another good idea is to keep a diary so you do not miss on all the tasks you do as a carer and highlight where support is needed before the assessment. Always remember, this is not about you asking to be ‘paid to care’ – this is about you accessing support to enable you to care, taking some of the financial strain away so you can care more effectively – for yourself as well as the person you’re caring for.
- Look for carers’ support locally. Local charities may help with much needed respite for carers or help with shopping, for example. This can help the carer rest and avoid burnout. Carers.org is a great place to start to find local support for both young and adult carers.
They provide a critical support to millions of people across society, often the ‘unsung heroes’ who are saving the public purse a significant amount of money, and maintaining a quality of life for those who have found themselves in their care. We need to support carers to navigate the system, and to maintain their own quality of life, their mental health and their finances whilst undertaking the crucial role of being a carer.
If you provide welfare support to people with caring responsibilities, we can help you to make your mark on their lives through accessible training on the topic of Carers and Caring Matters.
The Universal Credit £20 uplift awarded to all UC claimants as a result of the pandemic is now due to end on 30th September. What does that really mean to the people it will affect most?
Our Social Welfare Instructor Adam Matthews talks through the implications with Jayne Graham in this 9 minute Bitesize Benefits Briefing.
Caring for children is one of the most fulfilling experiences an adult can have, and, of course, it wouldn’t be so rewarding if it wasn’t for the hurdles, the massive challenges that parents and carers encounter along the way. Let’s face it, being a carer is tough. Add to that the responsibilities associated with providing a happy, safe, stimulating and supportive family environment for a child or children challenged with physical disabilities, or SEND, behavioural or development difficulties. There’s no less love, no less joy, but in many cases there’s a lot more complexity to navigate, including challenges with communication, comprehension, vision, hearing and/or physical functioning.
A recent report highlighted that, on average, families with disabled children face extra costs of £581 a month, and for a quarter of families this rises to over £1,000. In many cases welfare benefits geared specifically to helping with the extra demands and special care needs of children are available, however these benefits are massively underclaimed. One such benefit is Disabled Living Allowance (DLA) for Children. Unlike DLA for adults which is being phased out and replaced by Personal Independence Payment (PIP), and Attendance Allowance for adults over pensionable age, the DLA benefit for children currently remains intact.
So why are families not getting access to DLA?
Sometimes not applying for DLA is just a decision that families make. That might be because of a reluctance to be seen ‘to be paid’ to look after their child or children – understandable, but the benefit is there to support with the extra costs of looking after a child under 16 who has difficulties walking, or who needs much more looking after than a child of the same age who does not have a disability, so that extra income can really help.
Families can understandably feel quite daunted with the prospect of the 38 page application for DLA for children for which existing guidance is complicated and limited, resulting in a decision not to apply. Those who do apply and fail, often because they haven’t had the support they need to express their circumstances in line with the DWP guidelines, will understandably then give up. However, an appeals process does exist and applicants should be encouraged to try again, with the right support, so we need to make sure they know where to turn for help.
First and foremost, does the family actually know that DLA is available to help them? Many unfortunately don’t. Our mission at Society Matters is to put that right, by building the knowledge of the support systems of the potential of DLA – and other welfare benefits – and to help raise awareness of how to successfully apply for the benefit, to reduce this problem.
We also know that some families assume that they won’t be entitled to the benefit as they think their current income, savings or capital would preclude them from doing so. In fact DLA for Children is not a means-tested benefit so these factors aren’t taken into account, providing a level playing field for all families when applying for the benefit.
Some parents and carers also believe that the benefit won’t apply to them as their child doesn’t have a physical disability, but in fact DLA also supports children with learning or SEND, behavioural or development difficulties. The key factor for meeting the DWP criteria for DLA for children is an ability to demonstrate that the child needs substantially more care, attention or supervision than other children of the same age who don’t have a disability or health condition.
Families also sometimes believe they need to wait until they have a final diagnosis to make an application, particularly with younger children who will struggle to express their needs and frustrations and how they are feeling. Although a diagnosis will help with evidencing the condition, some conditions can take extended periods to diagnose fully, so a claim can still be made in advance of this.
Often in the case of younger children awards can be at a lower level for the care and mobility elements that make up DLA, as more investigation is needed on their conditions by the professionals that are involved in the child’s development. When further evidence is available, supporting a claim that the child may be entitled to a higher rate, there can be a reticence from families to pursue an increased level of benefit in case this results in loss of the initial award altogether. Again this is understandable, but with the right support available to the family this risk is significantly lowered.
So why does the system need to support families to access DLA for children?
As well as the obvious financial benefits that come with benefit awards to meet the extra support needs of children, a successful DLA for children application can actually open doors to other benefits and vital support for families such as blue badges, carers allowance, a Motability car and exemption from the benefit cap. This needs to be understood by families before they make a choice not to make a claim.
The hard fact in a report published by Public Health England 2012 is that children and young people with a disability are more likely to live in poverty than those without a disability. Disabled children have, for a long time, had poor experiences using the welfare system. Difficulty in accessing benefits and delays in payments have often left disabled children financially insecure. So help is critical. A successful DLA for children application can make a huge difference for the family and the child, making sure their needs are met not just at this time but as they progress into adulthood.
You can make your mark
If you’re a professional that may be in a position to support families to understand their potential entitlement for DLA, and would love to be able to make your mark by helping them to make a successful application, we can help. Society Matters cic has designed a half day training workshop, ‘Get to Grips with DLA for children’. Find out more about the course here
14 local charities will benefit from Bellway Homes’ donation to the Society Matters’ Pay It Forward programme, paying for quality accredited welfare benefits training on 6th May for community and voluntary organisations in Newcastle and Gateshead.
Over 7 decades Bellway Homes has grown from a small, family-owned firm in Newcastle to one of the most successful house builders in the UK that now employs more than 2,000 people. Throughout its growth the company’s ethos has continued to be focused on supporting local communities, with each of its 22 divisions having a charity budget to support organisations and community groups in their local areas, as well as a charity committee that can donate funds to good causes that apply for assistance.
Stephen Weldon, the company’s Head of Sustainability, awarded the donation to Society Matters cic, explaining
“As a company founded in the North East of England, Bellway’s continues to support charities and groups delivering support to local communities in the region. Society Matters cic and its parent charity Citizens Advice Gateshead form a vital part of that support network and Bellway is proud to be supporting the delivery of the Get to Grips with Universal Credit course in Gateshead and Newcastle in May.”
Through its donation to Society Matters’ Pay It Forward Scheme, Bellway will be providing 14 places on the Get to Grips with Welfare Benefits training course which has already met with huge acclaim from people and organisations across the North East and nationally.
Lee Booth, who leads on the development and delivery of training for the social enterprise explains how much the donation means to local communities:
“The number of people now claiming Universal Credit has sky rocketed due to the pandemic, so it’s critical that the professionals that are approached for help across the CVS by families in need of support really understand how the benefit works. Our training does that. It’s unique in its approach to breaking down what is clearly a very complex topic, and has been endorsed independently by ncfe as a quality learning programme.
Although our fair and affordable pricing policy makes this training very low cost and high value for money, in reality without this support from Bellway it’s highly unlikely that charities can access it. We owe a massive thanks to the team at Bellway that have recognised how important this is, and that have been prepared to make this donation.”
As well as its recent donation to Society Matters which will enable over a dozen charities and voluntary organisations in Gateshead and Newcastle to be trained to Get to Grips with Universal Credit, Bellway is also proud to work with the Community Foundation, which covers Tyne and Wear and Northumberland, and with the Greggs Foundation Breakfast Club Programme. The company also works with a national partner – currently Cancer Research UK – raising money for this charity across all of its divisions, and matches any funds raised by employees outside of work for good causes close to their hearts.
Book your free place thanks to Bellway
Small charities and community and voluntary sector organisations across Newcastle and Gateshead are being invited to book a free place on the Get to Grips with Universal Credit course being sponsored by Bellway Homes which will take place on 6th May 9.30 am until 3.30 pm in the Society Matters cic virtual classroom.
to book your place
14 places available. 1 place per charity please.
As a proud non-exec Director of social enterprise Society Matters cic I’m on a mission to make a difference. Alongside my talented co-Directors, our wonderful staff team and our parent charity Citizens Advice Gateshead, we have a vision of a fair society for all, with lives well lived.
So what does that mean? To me, that means we are determined to help people in need to achieve their potential in life, to help families living in poverty, with disadvantage and deprivation, to become more self-reliant, resilient and move towards a lifestyle that is stable and secure.
You might say – “well good luck with that” – and yes, it is a huge job.
And it is one that is becoming more challenging daily while Covid takes its toll and employment – life itself – is ever more precarious. Even people who are in employment are struggling to make ends meet and dealing with insecure jobs.
So, to achieve our ambition we have looked really closely at the part Society Matters cic can play – how our small but perfectly formed team can help to support people on a journey that leads to them ultimately supporting themselves.
Mobilising lived experience and specialist knowledge into the system
Proper support for people in need is crucial to enable them to emerge from poverty and avoid the traps that come along with it that often have long term impacts. Debt, health problems, fuel poverty, housing and the knock-on impacts on education and social isolation are only a few examples of issues that that put people in crisis situations that are difficult to get out of.
The Social Welfare system is there to provide such support but its complexities mean that people do not always get their entitlement and in many cases do not even realise they are eligible for benefits. Accessing support can be difficult and not for the faint-hearted. Not the best situation when you’re worried where the next meal is coming from or where you can get the bus fare to work.
So to help people access the support they need our approach is to mobilise the knowledge that resides in the advisers who deal with the complications of the system on a daily basis. The value of those experts, whose knowledge is second to none, and who have made a tangible difference to people’s lives, can’t be over-estimated. So those advisers have invested their lived experience and specialist knowledge into the design, development and delivery of cutting edge training which is now delivered in a virtual classroom by Society Matters cic.
This is not training you can get from a book or a website. It’s coming at social welfare problems from the people perspective – not just relaying policy and practice. If you are one of the hundreds of people who have received this training, you’ll have the tools in your toolkit to really help people to navigate the social welfare and benefits system, and to get the best possible outcome for them and their families through your work.
We need more people to be able to help more people
Like I said, this is a big job. So we’re on a mission to spread this acute, front-end knowledge far and wide.
On the ground, that means more people accessing the benefits they so desperately need, more people avoiding crisis points, more people moving out of poverty, more people taking the step from benefits to employment – more people reaching their potential. More people living their lives as well as they can. Isn’t that what we, as a society, should expect for everyone?
And of course, through the pandemic the public have grown a heightened awareness of the close connection between society and the economy. Through engendering more people with spending power the local economy gains, so we all gain. Did you know that in Gateshead alone in 2019-2020 the advice and information given to people by our parent charity Citizens Advice Gateshead gained £7.8m additional income, most of which will have been spent locally – mind blowing!
Just think what could be done across our region with a bit more know-how.
Knowledge is power – Society Matters is mobilising knowledge through its training so the Social Welfare system provides the means to progress for people who need and want to battle successfully against poverty. And it’s already working. Front line staff we’ve trained are picking up on potential problems with their users at early stages and averting crises like eviction and arrears, and people are being able to work through their disabilities because they have the right support to do so, because they’ve been helped in the right way to get what they needed. Critically, through mobilising knowledge the trained support staff feel confident and empowered in their work, and the service users relieved – what’s not to like in such a great result.