Paul Burstow, the Minister for the Care Services announced that the Government is "refreshing" The National Carer's Strategy previously agreed in 2008.
The intention is to develop a plan of action for 2011 to 2015 not to substantially change the ethos behind the Strategy.
However, Mr Burstow states that...
"The Government must prioritise its actions for the next four years to ensure maximum value for money in the context of the current economic climate and in line with our top priority of reducing the national deficit."
What happens at the moment?
At present, Central Government allocates Local Authorities a "Carer's Grant" each year. Some of this money is used by Social Services to fund areas such as short breaks while the rest is redistributed to local groups and charities to provide services to families and carers.
Your local council's website should be able to give you details about local funding for families and carers. The amount available will vary between authorities.
If you require support in your caring role your first point of contact should be the Social Services Department. They can discuss any difficulties and undertake a formal assessment of your needs called a Carer's Assessment and possibly a Community Care Assessment of the person you are caring for.
As a carer or parent of a disabled child you are entitled to a Carer's Assessment even if the person you care for is not receiving support from Social Services.
Having an assessment is important as it can establish the help you need in your caring role and whether any support or funding could be provided from Statutory sources.
If Social Services are unable to help they will (hopefully) have available a list of local organisations who will be able to support you.
What financial support is available to families and carers?
The main benefit for families and carers is the Carer's Allowance. This is a taxable benefit that can be paid to people over 16 years who provide care for over 35 hours a week provided the person you care for is in receipt of certain benefits.
Full details on eligibility can be found on the gov.uk website.
However, there are a few explanations required over the eligibility criteria:
'You must not earn more than £100 a week'
This is the sum you can earn after deducting:
This is not widely known and many families and carers miss out on the Carer's Allowance as they fail to make these deductions.
If your employer doesn't have a company pension it is certainly worthwhile taking out a Stakeholder or other personal pension to ensure that your income after deductions is below the £100 a week.
Claiming the Carer's Allowance will also ensure that National Insurance (NI) contributions (Carer's Credit) are credited to your NI record which helps safeguard other benefits and your state pension.
The Carer's Credit (previously called the Home Responsibilities Protection) is available all carers caring for over 20 hours a week including those not eligible for a Carer's Allowance.
To claim the Carer's Allowance
To claim the Carer's Allowance either contact the Carer's Allowance Unit on 0845 6084321, visit your local Job Centre Plus, download an application form or complete the on-line application form.
Carers in Northern Ireland will need to either contact the Disability and Carer's Service on 028 9090 6186, The Benefit Enquiry helpline on 0800 22 06 74 or visit their local Jobs and Benefits/Social Security office.
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