There are currently around six million carers in the UK, about one-eighth of the adult population. Carers UK has estimated that their collective efforts save the economy £119bn a year.
All carers are entitled to request a carers assessment from their local authority and all those providing “substantial and regular care” is entitled to one. Often this is carried out along with the assessment of the disabled or elderly person’s needs as part of a single assessment process.
From this carers may well be allotted services to support their caring role, including a certain amount of time for respite care, but these will be subject to a means test.
However, charity the Princess Royal Trust for Carers has estimated that only 25% of carers receive an assessment. This could change under proposals to reform adult social care law in England and Wales from the Law Commission, which could lower the threshold for a carers’ assessment so all those who appear to have needs that coudl be met by services would receive one.
Carers and personalisation
As of 2010, a quarter of carers eligible for services in England received support through a personal budget, giving them choice over their support. However, these are often one-off direct payments, rather than ongoing support.
Carers have also been found to benefit from personal budgets being given to the service users they look after, though some carers have expressed concerns about the burdens managing a personal budget for a service user places on them.
Some carers receive the carer’s allowance, which, as of 2011, was worth £55.55. Those who care for less than 35 hours a week, earn more than £100 a week or in full-time education with more than 21 hours of supervised study are ineligible. Eligibility for other benefits reduces the carer’s allowance and carers over 65 do not receive anything as they are in receipt of the state pension.
A full year’s payments come to £2,802.80 but estimates put the average contribution of a carer to the UK economy at £15,260. Carers have long argued that the rate of carer’s allowance be increased to more accurately reflect what they contribute to society but there are no plans to do so from the UK government.
A study by the Princess Royal Trust for Carers in September 2010 showed nearly half of carers are depressed about their financial position.
Carers and work
One in five carers give up work because of their caring role but over three million carry on juggling work with their caring role.
Benefits can prove a barrier for work because as soon as you earn over £100 a week, after deductions such as income tax, carers lose their entitlement to carer’s allowance.
Carers policy in Scotland was set by the Carers Strategy for Scotland: 2010-15, which includes pledges to improve training of health and social care in identifying carers and more training for carers.
In Wales, the Carers Strategies (Wales) Measure 2010 placed a duty on the NHS and local authorities to prepare and publish strategies for carers in their areas.
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