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Carers Rights Day – support for carents

25 November 2021 | 5 minutes

Carents have the same rights as carers

Today is carers rights day in the UK - whether you are a carent, young carer, spouse carer, or parent carer, you have rights. Carers UK is campaigning to make you aware of your existing rights whilst building the scope of support available to you. 

In the UK 1 in 8 adults are carers  - that’s at least 6.5 million people. The number of carers is growing rapidly  - every day 6,000 additional people become carers in the UK.

There are a range of different descriptions of ‘carer’ but you can be registered and supported as a carer if you provide unpaid care and support to a family member or friend who has a disability, illness, mental health condition, or who needs extra help as they grow older. People who volunteer or are employed to provide support are not included.

In the UK, legislation including the Equality Act and the Care Act, combined with a growing commitment from national policy makers including the NHS and Local Authorities, means that carers have a growing range of rights relating to benefits, employment, health and care, and formal involvement in the care of the person they support.   

If you are a carer:

  • Your Local Authority has a duty to assess your needs for support and this assessment can result in advice, financial support, and/or practical support such as respite breaks
  • No one - including an employer - can discriminate against you because of your responsibilities as a carer, or because of the person you care for
  • You can ask your GP to register you as a carer and be involved when the person you care for is discharged from hospital

Many carents don’t realise they are carers and don’t know how or where to get help. It can be challenging, tiring, distressing and lonely.  Juggling care and work can be difficult too. 

Carers' rights to help from the Local Authority(LA)

If you are a carer then help from the local authority starts with a needs assessment.  Your local authority (local council) has a duty to carry out an assessment for you regardless of how much money you have or the amount of care you provide. 

You don’t necessarily have to live with the person you are looking after or be caring full-time to have an assessment. 

After your needs assessment, the council will decide whether you meet their eligibility criteria for care and support and if you do, they are duty bound to develop a care and support plan for you.   

The plan lays out the level and nature of help you need and how that support will be provided.  It might include financial support, practical support (such as respite care, a break for you, help with transport or referral to a carers support group), or additional information or support to promote your own health and wellbeing .

You can find out more about how to access an assessment, the relevant eligibility criteria and the support which might be provided to you in these Carers UK fact sheets and in this Age UK factsheet.

Carers' rights to financial support

Your needs assessment and eligibility assessment could result in you receiving a direct payment (personal budget) to help you protect or promote your wellbeing.  Depending on your needs assessment, personal budgets can be used to pay for all sorts of things such as:

  • travel expenses or fees to take up leisure or education activities
  • health promotion activities such as exercise classes, gym membership, massages or relaxation or complementary therapies
  • practical things such as a washing machine or a computer
  • a short holiday to recharge their batteries
  • driving lessons
  • help with housework and gardening
  • paying for a mobile phone
  • leisure classes to relieve stress.

As a carer you might also be eligible for other financial benefits including carer’s allowance, carer’s credit, or pension credits.  This government site will give you more specific details of financial benefits for carers. 

Carers UK, the Carers Trust and AGE UK are all experienced in providing you more information about carer specific financial benefits. You might also find the UK Government sponsored site Money Helper useful.  It aims to provide trusted yet simple advice about your money and pension choices. 

Carers' rights at work

In the UK, the Equality Act (2010) provides a legal framework to help you to stay in work and access relevant support. If you are looking after someone who is older or has a disability then you are protected under the Equality Act because of your association with that protected person.

This protection covers discrimination or harassment in relation to employment and means that it is illegal for you to be treated less favourably because of your caring responsibilities.   

As a consequence of this act, your employer has obligations to help you continue to work in the face of your caring responsibilities.  

You can get free help and advice about your rights at work from ACAS. The charity Working Families also has a free helpline. 

Carers' rights in the NHS

NHS organisations have growing responsibilities to recognise and work together to support carers. In the first instance you can ask your GP to register you as a carer.  If you are struggling emotionally or practically you can ask your GP to help you.  Your GP can also refer you for a local authority needs assessment and give you information about local support services and organisations which can help you or the person you care for.   

As a registered carer you will be entitled to flu and covid vaccinations and enabled to get more involved in care planning for the person you care for. 

This carers toolkit has been developed to help NHS organisations give carers the recognition and support they need to provide invaluable care for loved ones.