Financial support for carers
The booklet Looking after someone: a guide to carers' rights and benefits produced by Carers UK has comprehensive information about the rights that carers have and how to access financial and practical support.
You find more information on the Citizens Advice website. They provide free and confidential advice about legal and money problems.
Read more about help for carers in Scotland.
Bear in mind that the social care system is changing - and there may be changes that could affect you.
Find out more about financial support
This is the main benefit available to carers and can be accessed by those who regularly spend 35 hours or more a week caring for a disabled person. It is paid to the carer and not the person with MS. Only one person can receive Carer’s Allowance for looking after an individual.
Carers can only claim Carer's Allowance if they meet certain criteria, and if the person they are looking after with MS is already receiving certain benefits. For more information on what these criteria are, Carers UK has useful information on when a carer can claim Carer’s Allowance.
Carer’s Allowance is not means-tested, which means it's not based on the income or assets of a carer, or of the person they look after. It also does not depend on past National Insurance contributions. This means that carers can get Carer’s Allowance even if they’ve never worked. However, carers do have to pay tax on Carer’s Allowance and sometimes benefits received by the person being cared for may be reduced if Carers' Allowance is claimed. As a carer, you can have a break in caring of up to 4 weeks (or 12 weeks if either you or your carer go into hospital) within any 26-week period without Carer’s Allowance being affected.
> Visit Gov.uk to find out more about Carer's Allowance. This includes eligibility criteria, how much it is, and its effect on other benefits.
> Visit the Carers UK website for a list of frequently asked questions. These explain how recent changes to Carer's Allowance and other benefits will affect carers and families.
Other key benefits
Carers who are on a low income may also be entitled to receive the following benefits.
This benefit can be claimed by carers who are between 16 and the Pension Credit 'qualifying age' and can top up Carer's Allowance, or be claimed even if no other benefits are being received. In order to be eligible for Income Support, a carer will need to meet several criteria. To find out more about income support, visit the Government website. There is also a Carer Premium, which may increase the amount of Income Support carers can receive.
Pension credit is a means-tested benefit for people who are are of, or over the 'qualifying age' for a State Pension and on a low income. A Carer Addition may increase the amount of Pension Credit received. Find out more about Pension Credit.
See our financial help section for information about other benefits that carers might be able to claim.
If a person with MS or carer has been assessed by social services and a need for social care funding has been identified, you have a right to request that funding in the form of a direct payment. A direct payment is a cash payment that is given directly to the person instead of community care services, and is intended to give the recipient much more choice over the kind of services they receive. The majority of direct payments are paid to a disabled person to pay for care, following an assessment by social services. However in some cases, carers might be able to get a separate payment to buy services that help them in their caring role and to help support their wellbeing.
Local councils (or, in Northern Ireland, health and social care trusts) can give carers direct payments for any purpose that helps them to carry on caring and promotes their own health and wellbeing.
It’s worth bearing in mind that a direct payment does result in people taking on more responsibility, as the recipient will in charge of managing the money, but many local organisations are able provide support to help manage the administration of these payments. However, if you would prefer to receive services provided by the local authority, you don't have to choose a direct payment.
In Scotland it's possible for carers to get direct payments as part of 'self directed support'. This is when the local council gives you a budget to spend on social care services you might need after you've had a carer's assessment.
MS Society grants for carers
We value the important role played by families and carers in the lives of people with MS. If you provide help and support to a partner, child, relative, friend or neighbour who has MS, you may be eligible for a carers' grant. These are provided to carers of all ages for a broad range of items and activities for leisure or personal development (this means getting new knowledge or skills).
What we can help with
We can provide grants to carers of all ages for a broad range of items and activities for leisure or personal development.
Leisure can include recreational activities (or related costs for example equipment or transport), which would be beneficial to the carer in some way, giving them a chance to relax, socialise, or try something new. For example, it could include a school trip for a young carer, sports equipment, music lessons or gardening equipment.
Personal development can include courses (or related costs, for example course materials or transport) to enable a carer to get back into work, start a new career to fit in with their caring role, or develop other ‘life skills’ such as learning to drive.
The fund has three age categories:
- Young carers (aged 15 and under) can apply for a one-off grant of up to £300.
- Transitional carers (aged 16–24) can apply for a one-off grant of £300 (leisure) or £1,000 (personal development).
- Adult carers (aged 25 and over) can apply once every five years for grants of up to £300 (leisure) and £1,000 (personal development).
Grants from carers organisations
Some local carers centres have grants funds that carers can apply to for financial support. Quite often this money will be linked to health and wellbeing, and grants will be provided for things like short breaks and therapies which can help a carer maintain their caring role.
Use Carers Trust to contact your local carers centre to find out what's available locally.