Means tested help for carers

Monday 15 October 2018

In Part 2 of 3, we look at extra help that can be available to carers on low incomes in addition to Carer's Allowance, and why it can sometimes be worth claiming Carer's Allowance even when you know it can't be paid

Welcome to Part 2 of my run through benefits for carers, inspired by national Carer’s Week . Last time in Part 1 – see the links , I looked at:  

1.the difference between “disability” benefits claimed by the person you support and Carer’s Allowance that a carer can claim. I took a look at the Carer’s Allowance in detail    

2.what you can do while waiting for the appropriate qualifying disability benefits to be sorted and sometimes you might not be able to get the Carer’s Allowance because you are already getting one of the other “overlapping benefits. You end up with a nice letter and an “underlying entitlement to Carer’s Allowance, but no money. However, the reward for humouring me and making that claim could be triggering extra entitlements within means tested benefits.


This time I will take the lid of what happens for carers within means tested benefits, with the help of some Centre Visitor’s with names beginning with J and some characters from the Magic Roundabout Centre. In particular, I take a look at:   

1.the carer’s premium /addition and the knock on effects they can have.  

2.the means tested sums when you are waiting on those “disability benefits”  

3.why sometimes it’s worth claiming means tested benefits when you won’t yet qualify


In a further Part 3, I will look at:  

4.why sometimes it may be best not to claim as a carer at all.  

5.and how means tested benefits currently deal with people who are carers and have health issues of their own as well.  

6. Some key differences in Universal Credit’s approach to carers and additions for disability    

Carer’s Allowance and means tested benefits


Carers premiums and additions  

Carer’s Allowance counts in full as income for means tested benefits, so will get taken away from those benefits  £ for £. The means tested benefits are there either to top up a low income (through benefits such as Income Support, Pension Credit, Income-based JSA and Income-related ESA) or to help with specific costs (e.g. Housing Benefit for rent, council tax support and help with health costs). More recently they are joined by Universal Credit, which will replace all of the above bar Pension Credit and council tax support, but not Carers Allowance itself. 

However, despite being potentially cancelled out by deductions, Carer’s Allowance does two very useful more positive things for people accessing means tested benefits:  

  • it triggers an extra “carer’s premium”  - called a "carers addition" within Pension Credit or "carers element" within Universal Credit - worth an extra £36.00 a week within the sums for all of those benefits. The result could be extra income – potentially an extra £36 or triggering entitlement for the first time . Or less rent and council tax to pay or potentially both .
  • it also frees the carer from any "work conditionality" that might otherwise be required within these benefits, to leave them freer to be there as carer and support.   

For example:

Jo cares for her neighbour, Jemal, who applied for PIP after his cancer diagnosis.  She is claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) but is finding it very hard to balance the increasing demands placed on jobseekers these days – under threat of sanction - with looking after her friend. Getting on to Carer’s Allowance means that Jo can switch to Income Support for means tested top ups instead, with no work requirements. If Jo was on Universal Credit she would switch “work conditionality” groups within the same benefit rather than need to switch benefits  

The basic rate of Income Support is £73.10 to which is added a Carers Premium of £36.00, so Jo’s “applicable amount” under IS rules comes to £109.10. Jo then is entitled to £44.50 Income Support, to top up her Carers Allowance of £64.60., so that she ends up with a weekly income of £109.10.  

So although the Carers Allowance is taken of £ for £ from potential Income Support, the Carers Premium means she ends up £36.00 a week better off overall – as well as being freed from jobseeking demands. Her Income Support payment of £44.50 might be less than her previous JSA payment of £73.10, she now has the Carer’s Allowance. She is then £36 better off overall and perhaps just as important is freed from the demands placed on jobseekers and the seemingly out of control sanctions culture. It would be exactly the same within Universal Credit except all the amounts and  would be monthly rather than weekly


Florence and Dougal are a couple both drawing their Retirement Pension. On being diagnosed with cancer, Florence applies for Attendance Allowance. Dougal can now claim Carer’s Allowance, for helping Florence. However, he gets a letter back – frustratingly -  saying that although he meets the criteria for CA, he can’t be paid it because he is already getting more than this in Retirement Pension. 

However, before throwing the letter away – dejectedly - he contacts Pension Credit – tentatively - who add a £36.00 Carer’ Addition on to their joint “appropriate amount” for Pension Credit. So, making that claim for Carer’s Allowance leads to potentially an extra £36.00 a week extra in Pension Credit. Dougal can keep his treasured collection of European sugar cubes. 

It could though be worth a lot more to them than that. For example, it may only been as a result of getting benefits advice in these new circumstances that Dougal and Florence realise – bemusedly – that they should have been claiming Pension Credit all these years. Or perhaps they had claimed in the past – hopefully – but without the “carer’s addition”, they may have just missed out, because of their income. 


Mr Rusty has a lifetime savings pot of £30,000. This does not stop him claiming Pension Credit, but it does affect the amount he gets, as he will be treated as having £40 a week more income than he really has. However, in his case this together with his other income – retirement pension and a small Street Organist’s Society Pension – that extra £40 takes him £10 over the level to receive any Pension Credit (Guarantee). It’s the actual sums for income – real and notional -  rather than any savings limit that does for his PC claim.    

Mr Rusty has heard from friends that it can be worth applying for help with rent and council tax as he might still get some help as he isn’t far over the income  limit in his case for receiving PC. And indeed he would receive some help based just on the income sums alone, but for he hits Housing Benefits’s  £16,000 savings limit , which means they can’t even look at the income sums, until his savings fell below the limit. So Mr Rusty gets no help then with his rent (£80 a week) noror council tax (£20 a week)  

Mr Rusty then becomes carer for his friend Ermintrude. He humours his Online Centre Benefits Advisor and claims a benefit - Carer’s Allowance - that he has been told he will not be paid !!  because it “overlaps” with his Retirement Pension and he can’t be paid both. However the point of doing so was to improve things in the sums for Pension Credit ( with a knock on effect on entitlement for Housing Benefit and council tax support).  

Previously Mr Rusty’s income (including notional income in relation to his £30,000 life savings) had put him  £10 over the limits to receive Pension Credit. But now with  £36.00  Carer’s addition added onto his “appropriate amount” in the Pension Credit sums, Mr Rusty rather than being £10 over is £26.00 under and can receive this in a award of PC  (Guarantee Credit).    

But the impact is much bigger than this handy little extra . Because Mr Rusty  is now getting at least 10p a week in  PC, Mr he completely by-passes the separate Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support financial assessment.  He now qualifies automatically for full help with rent and council tax, worth £100 a week in his case. Mr Rusty’s then is better off by £126.00 a week 


So, a Carer’s Allowance claim – whether or not Carer’s Allowance is actually paid – means an extra £36.00 a week  in your favour in the sums for means tested benefits. This may just mean some extra income, but can have bigger effects too:

  • for Jo,  it also means freedom from the obligations of jobseeking so she can focus on her caring commitments.
  • For Mr Rusty, it helps get him on to Pension Credit for the first time and with it gives him access to full help with rent and council tax rather than none     


Caring before you can get Carer’s Allowance  

In order to be able to claim Carer’s Allowance – or in Dougal and Mr Rusty’s ’s case have an “underlying entitlement” to it -  the person you look after must be getting one of the relevant “disability benefits”. These are either rate Attendance Allowance, Personal Independence Payment (PIP) - Daily Living component; or the middle or highest rates of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) Care component. The lowest rate of DLA Care or DLA/PIP Mobility won’t trigger any entitlement to Carers Allowance.  

The trouble is that these long-term benefits can sometimes take quite a while to come through with a decision, if the full assessment process has to be undergone. – this can take some 11 to 14 weeks. And sometimes the decision, when it does arrive,  is the “wrong” one and may need challenging to get put right – which can take 6 months or more. But in the meantime, you are still busy supporting the person you care for.  

Jo, in our example above, is juggling job seeking and supporting her friend Jemal, even while his Personal Independence Payment is working through a process that can take 14 weeks or more. In the meantime though, there is a provision to allow Jo to switch to Income Support while they are waiting for Jemal’s PIP decision.  

Jo wouldn’t get a “carers premium” yet, but she can at least escape the distractions – and sanctions culture – of JSA and so focus on her caring commitments. Her “applicable amount”” would be the basic £73.10, the same amount as on JSA as a jobseeker.  

Jo can do this until either:  the PIP decision is reached or for up to 26 weeks, whichever comes first.  If the PIP claim is delayed - or perhaps wrongly turned down and need challenging – Jemal would need to make a new second PIP claim purely to reset the clock and enable Jo to keep claiming Income Support.  

Once the PIP is awarded, the claims can be adjusted to claim Carer’s Allowance  

Unfortunately, this important relaxation of the rules while you get the benefits in pace, is not all that well known, including by DWP staff, but it is there. If you have are in this situation and have any difficulties please message me.  

It is also unfortunate,  that there is no such clear exception under Universal Credit. If Jo was a  jobseeker, claiming UC rather than JSA, then although it makes life simpler once PIP is awarded – no need to switch benefits, UC won’t excuse her from jobseeking in the meantime. It will be entirely at the discretion of her UC workcoach, who may be more used to the sort of easing of requirements within JSA rather than switching them off altogether that Income Support allows.  

This, of course is not an issue  for older claimants like Dougal. Yes,  he too will have to wait for any extra money as a carer until Florence’s Attendance Allowance is sorted, but at least his basic income from Retirement Pension and any current Pension Credit is not dependent on any job seeking activity, so he can just focus on supporting Florence and caustic wit.



Claiming means tested benefits ahead of disability/carers awards.  

Sometimes it may be that the extra carer’s addition or premium, will be the thing that tips you into an entitlement to a means tested benefit, when you might not be entitled before it is counted. Similarly, for the person you are looking after as there may be extra “disability premiums” that might follow in their claim, once they are awarded their disability benefit.  

If you are already on the benefit there isn’t a problem: once the disability or carers benefit comes through, backdated to the date when the claim for say Attendance Allowance or PIP was first made, then your means tested entitlement can be re-calculated right back to the same day with the premiums counted in. You will get a healthy chunk of arrears.  

But if you are not yet entitled to that means tested benefit, then you could lose out, as there are strict rules and time limits on backdating a new claim. What you may need to do then is to make a claim straightaway even though you know the answer is going to be “No”.  

Once all the other benefits are sorted you then make a new claim – but referring to the previous one. The Decision Maker at the DWP then has the legal power to connect the two and include the extra premiums, no matter how long the journey  to disability benefit  and Carers Allowance took. So even if things have to go to appeal and it takes almost a year to get there, both you and the person you support,  can get all your premiums backdated.   

It would be much simpler of course if indefinite backdating was allowed in these circumstance, as people may not have even realised they could be entitled to means tested help until they get their disability and carers sorted. Failing that, it would be simpler to at least allow Decision Makers to just look again at your first claim rather than forcing you to make a second one.  

But instead,  the responsibility is dumped entirely on you, to know that you could become entitled once the other claims are in place and to make a pre-emptive claim straight away and then go through all that hassle a second time ,  once other benefits are sorted. If in any doubt,  then make a claim and get advice or message me.   

There are though times when it may work out better not to claim Carer’s Allowance because sometimes claiming Carer’s Allowance can adversely affect the benefits of the person you look after.

There are also some differences in the way Universal Credit deals with both that issue and the ones mentioned above.  But I will give your head a rest for now to keep this blog contained. Links to the previous blog and to the next  

Please feel free to post general queries, thoughts and experiences in related fora. For individual advice on benefits for carers – or indeed any other benefit matters – please contact the Benefits Advisor in your nearest Maggie's Centre which you can find here. Help and advice is also available elsewhere, please see some suggested links below


Useful links and further reading

  • Sue-maggies - our Online Cancer Support Specialist's blog: What cancer means for carers -  here

External links

  • Carer’s UK – here
  • An article in the Guardian around the value of carers - here. 
  • DWP - Claiming Carer’s Allowance in Great Britain-  here.
  • Claiming Carer’s Allowance in Northern Ireland - here
  • Social Security Scotland – Carers Supplement - here
  • The rules on claiming Income Support while waiting for disability benefits to be sorted are at Schedule 1, paragraph 4c - here

.Other blogs in this  Benefits and Carers series

  • Benefits for Carers - Part 1 - Who counts as a carer for claiming Carer's Allowance - here
  • Benefits for carers - Part 3 - When not to claim CA, carers with health issues and changes ahead - here

Other related blogs you may find useful:

  • Disability Benefits : AA. DLA, PIP and Cancer - starting here
  • Benefits and cancer - an overview starting here

Getting individual advice with benefits:

There may be a variety of  other places where you can get face to face advice advice and eg help with forms or challenging adverse decisions in your area. The local patchwork of advice and support can vary and you may be able to find specific carer's centres or advice that best suits your needs. But good place to start looking include: 

  • Visit your local Maggie's Centre  and talk with one of our benefits advisors. Find your local centre here
  • See if there is a Macmillan advice service nearer you - here
  • Find your local Citizens Advice office / bureau: in England & Wales - here. In Scotland -here

Get cancer support near you

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