Financial support for carers

The financial impact of caring for someone with MS can be huge. There is help out there from public services and other sources, including the MS Society.

This page covers some of the financial help and support available to carers around the UK. 

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. Download the booklet from their website.

Bear in mind that the social care system is changing - find out about changes to benefits and how they may affect you.

You can also contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau or visit their self-help website at www.adviceguide.org.uk. They provide free and confidential advice about legal and money problems. 

Read more about help for carers in Scotland.

Carer's Allowance

This is the main benefit for people 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.

Carer's Allowance can be claimed only where a person with MS is already in receipt of certain benefits, and where the carer satisfies certain criteria.

Carer’s Allowance is not means tested and does not depend on past National Insurance contributions. Carers can get Carer’s Allowance even if they’ve never worked. However, you do have to pay tax on Carer’s Allowance. 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.

Find out about Carer's Allowance including eligibility criteria, how much it is, and its effect on other benefits. You can apply for Carers Allowance online and register changes to your circumstances at www.gov.uk/apply-carers-allowance.

Carers UK have produced this list of frequently asked questions, which explains how recent changes to Carer's Allowance and other benefits will affect carers and families.

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Other key benefits

Carers who are on a low income may also be entitled to receive the following benefits.

Income Support 

This benefit can be claimed by carers who are under the 'qualifying age' for pension credit. It can top up Carer's Allowance, or be claimed even if no other benefits are being received. There is also a Carer Premium which may increase the amount of Income Support received. Find out more about Income Support.

Pension credit

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 benefits, work and money section for information about other benefits carers might be able to claim.

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Direct payments

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 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 you.

Guidance given to local councils suggests that they can give carers direct payments for any purpose which helps them to sustain their role as a carer, and promotes their own health and well being. Direct payments for carers are not available in Scotland.

Choosing a direct payment brings with it some responsibilities, but many local organisations provide support to help people manage the administration of their direct payments. You don't have to choose a direct payment however, if you would prefer to receive services provided by the local authority.

Find out more about direct payments for disabled people and carers from Carers UK.

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MS Society carer's grant fund

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 for carers of all ages for a broad range of items and activities for leisure or personal development (this means getting new knowledge or skills).

Find out more about the carers' grant fund.

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).

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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. 

Contact your local carers centre to find out what's available locally.

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Page last updated: 24 Jan 2017

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