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
In light of the ending of the eviction ban which was put in place to protect tenants from eviction during the pandemic, people need more support now than ever to stay in their homes, so Society Matters cic has designed another social welfare training course in response – ‘Housing Matters’.
The effect of Covid-19 is still very real for millions of people, with their financial position being more fragile than ever before. Many people who, before last March, were just about coping are now facing poverty, and those already suffering are being hit even harder. Society Matters wants to share the knowledge its parent charity has of housing matters, to maximise the support available to people at the earliest possible opportunity, rather than when they face crisis and, worst case scenario, eviction.
Jayne Graham MBE, Executive Director of Society Matters cic, explains
“The direct link between housing matters and physical and mental health makes housing a critical factor in achieving a life well lived. A safe, secure roof over their heads is the linchpin families need to be able to thrive but, for many, significant instability comes from housing challenges, some of which can be avoided with access to the right information at the right time. We’re proud to be launching our half day Housing Matters workshop training, priced at only £35 + vat hopefully we’ll be able to get plenty of people trained to support people who need help, at the time they need it most.”
To find out more about the Housing Matters workshop training click here.
If you find yourself in urgent need of housing advice and information please contact Citizens Advice national Adviceline on 0800 144 8848
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.