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  • The cost of caring – the facts

    Research from Carers UK estimates there are now 6.4 million carers in the UK – saving the State an average £18,473 per carer per year (a staggering £119 billion in total). This is more than the cost of the NHS, which stands at £98 billion.

    In return, those carers who qualify for payment are allocated just £55.55 per week – less than unemployment benefit, and way below the minimum wage.

     

  • Key contacts for carers

  • Support for carers

    holding hands imageCaring for a loved one is undoubtedly a rewarding experience, but it is also hugely physically and emotionally demanding. So it's vital that carers make use of what little support is available.

    Unfortunately, the pressure on carers is increasing, with councils supporting fewer disabled and seriously ill people, according to Gordon Conochie from The Princess Royal Trust for Carers.

    Extra expenses

    While, of course, carers are not driven by financial gain, the truth is that most struggle, says Gordon.

    "Many have to give up work and there are often extra expenses that come with caring. This means that too many carers use all their savings to cover the costs, and the money worries only add to the stress."

    How to claim carer's allowance

    Carer's Allowance (for people caring for 35 or more hours per week), Carer's Credits (State pension protection) and Carer's Premiums (for other benefits, such as income support) can all be claimed.

    Social Services will be required to conduct a Carer's Assessment, which involves gauging the needs of the person you're caring for in order to identify specific issues. They can then offer the best advice and help for carers, tailored to your situation.

    The process to get support sorted might take a while, but it's definitely worth it in the long run to see if you qualify for carer's allowance.

    The organisations listed in the 'Key contacts' box on this page will be happy to assist you, and could be a great source of help. For instance, many have dedicated areas on their websites, often with guest expert advisors, allowing carers to ask questions and discuss topics.

    Respite for carers

    In the interests of maintaining their own health, it is essential that home carers take a break. Respite is short-term care designed to enable a carer to take time off - whether it is for a mere half day once a week or an agreed spell of home or residential-based care.

    "For people with disabilities and those who care for them, respite for carers in the form of a break can make the difference between coping and despair, between just existing and really living," states Colin Brook of Vitalise, a charitable foundation which provides subsidised short breaks for individuals and carers.

    Carers may also find they are eligible for assistance in buying or leasing a car, parking, as well as reduced rates for travel and entertainment. Again, a local authority or carer's body should be able to offer advice on what you're entitled to.