Carer's credit & carer's allowance: What support can I get?

There are millions of carers in the UK on low or no pay, with many of them missing out on vital help in the form of carer's allowance or carer's credit. If you care for someone for at least 20 hours a week, you could boost your state pension by £1,000s or even be entitled to nearly £4,000 a year. This guide takes you through how to check and apply.

If you've any feedback on this guide, please let us know in the Help for carers forum thread.

What you can get depends on how much care you provide

Millions of people in the UK provide care, either unpaid or on a low income. All of them are unsung heroes – and if you're one of them, you might be due government help.

'Caring' is a broad definition which includes helping someone (be they family member, spouse, child, or even someone unrelated) with everyday tasks such as washing, cooking and shopping.

The key thing to know is you need to be caring for someone for AT LEAST 20 hours a week to get any help:

Carer's credit can boost your state pension if you give unpaid care for 20 to 35 hours/week

1679792965

Carer's credit is a national insurance (NI) 'credit' for people who provide care for at least 20 hours a week and aren't yet at state pension age. It's designed to protect your NI record from gaps, as many carers might need to give up paid work to provide care for someone.

The full state pension (for anyone reaching state pension age on or after 6 April 2016) is currently worth £221.20 a week. But to get this maximum amount, you'll usually need around 35 full NI years in place. Each year you meet the criteria for an NI credit during your working life, it appears on your NI record as a 'full qualifying year'. Being in paid employment is one of many ways you can earn these years automatically.

But if you haven't earned enough automatic credits to qualify for the full state pension, there are a range of scenarios that entitle you to apply for NI credits manually. These plug gaps in your NI record and boost your state pension entitlement – potentially by £1,000s.

There are many ways to do this, including buying them (see our Buying NI years guide). But if you provide care for someone who can't live without some kind of daily help and is receiving certain state benefits, you can claim one of the lesser-known NI credits: carer's credit. 

Who can claim carer's credit? 

To get carer's credit you need to fulfil these three criteria:

  1. You must be aged between 16 and state pension age. The current state pension age is 66 for men and women, but yours may be different depending on your age, so check the Government's state pension age calculator.

  2. You must look after one or more people for at least 20 hours a week. You don't get more 'credits' if you look after more than one person. You can still get carer's credit if you have breaks from caring (up to 12 weeks in a row), such as if you take a holiday, go into hospital, or the person you're caring for goes into hospital.

  3. The person(s) you're caring for usually also needs to receive at least one of these benefits:
    - Disability living allowance ('care component' at the middle or highest rate)
    - Attendance allowance
    - Constant attendance allowance
    - Personal independence payment (the daily living part at the standard or enhanced rate)
    - Armed forces independence payment
    - Child disability payment at the middle or highest rate
    - Adult disability payment daily living component at the standard or enhanced rate

    Though if the person you care(d) for doesn't get one of the above, you could still be eligible for carer's credit, so it's still worth trying – fill in the 'care certificate' part of the application form and get a health or social care professional to sign it.

Step-by-step: How to claim carer's credit

Step 1: Check your state pension forecast

If you're already on track to get the full state pension, adding extra carer's credit is pointless as it won't boost your entitlement beyond the maximum level. So the first thing you need to do is check your state pension forecast.

You can do that using the state pension forecast calculator. The full state pension is £221.20 a week, so if you're not predicted to get that, move on to Step 2.

Step 2: Check your eligibility 

As shown above, the three criteria are as follows: 
 
  1. You must be aged between 16 and state pension age.
  2. You must look after one or more people for at least 20 hours a week.
  3. The person you're caring for must also receive at least one qualifying benefit.

If in doubt, you can also call the Carer's Allowance Unit on 0800 731 0297

Step 3: Fill in the application form 

Download and complete the digital carer's credit claim form. The form includes a 'care certificate', which you'll need to ask a health or social care professional to sign for you. You can also get the form by calling the Carer's Allowance Unit.

For alternative formats to the online version of the form mentioned above, contact the Carer's Allowance Unit on 0800 731 0297 (lines open Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm). Textphone and sign language options are also available – see this applying for carer's credit Gov.uk page for more info.

Important: You can backdate your claim to the last full tax year 

If you met the criteria for carer's credit last tax year, you can backdate your claim to get the NI credit for that year too. So a claim made by 5 April 2025, for example, can be backdated to the beginning of the 2023/24 tax year.

You can still backdate your claim to the previous tax year if the person you were caring for has since died, or no longer needs caring for. In these situations it's best to contact the Carer's Allowance Unit using the details listed above.

Carer's credit need-to-knows:

MSE weekly email

FREE weekly MoneySaving email

For all the latest deals, guides and loopholes simply sign up today – it's spam-free!

Carer's allowance is worth over £4,000/year if you provide 35+ hours of care a week

688645165

If you spend a significant amount of time caring for someone with an illness or disability, you may be entitled to financial help in the form of carer's allowance.

Importantly, you DON'T need to be related to, or living with, the person you're caring for. But you do need to be providing the care for one person for at least 35 hours a week (you don't get extra if you care for more than one person), and you must be earning less than £151 a week (after tax).

Carer's allowance is worth a total of £4,258 a year, paid into an account of your choice at either the weekly rate of £81.90, or the four-weekly rate of £327.

You'll also automatically get carer's allowance credit, which works in the same way as carer's credit – so you'll get the potential state pension boost without needing to submit a separate carer's credit claim.

Carer's allowance eligibility – who can claim? 

You may be eligible for carer's allowance if you, the person you care for, and the type of care you provide meet the following three criteria:

  1. You must provide at least 35 hours a week of care for one person. This can include (but is not limited to) helping with washing and cooking, taking the person you care for to doctors' appointments, helping with household tasks such as food shopping and managing bills, and even just keeping an eye on a person to ensure they don't come to harm.

    Importantly, though, if someone else is caring for the same person and already claiming carer's allowance for that person, or receiving extra Universal Credit for caring for that person, you WON'T also be able to claim carer's allowance. If you do decide to apply anyway, the Government will decide who should receive the benefit, so it's best to talk to the other carer first and see if you can agree on who should receive the extra help.

  2. The person you care for must get one of the following benefits: 
    - Personal independence payment (the daily living part at the standard or enhanced rate)
    - Disability living allowance ('care component' at the middle or highest rate)
    - Attendance allowance
    - Armed forces independence payment
    - Child disability payment at the middle or highest rate
    - Adult disability payment (the daily living part at the standard or enhanced rate)
    - Constant attendance allowance (either at the basic rate with a war disablement pension, or at or above the normal maximum rate with an Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit).

Important. If the person you are looking after is getting a 'severe disability premium' as part of their means-tested benefits, this will stop when you claim carer's allowance.

  1. For you to qualify, you must also be:
    - Over the age of 16 and out of full-time education (including studying for 21+ hours a week)
    - Earning £151 or less a week after income tax, national insurance and expenses (see what counts as expenses)
    - Living in the UK (though there are exceptions – see this carer's allowance Gov.uk page if you live in Great Britain, or this carer's allowance NIdirect page if you live in Northern Ireland).

Step-by-step: How to claim carer's allowance

Step 1: Check your eligibility

First, double-check that you, the care you provide, and the person you care for all meet the criteria outlined above. If you're not sure, contact the helpline on 0800 731 0297 (lines open Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm).

Step 2: Gather the information you'll need to apply

To submit an application, you'll need to have the following info to hand:

  • Your national insurance number (if you have a partner, you'll need theirs too)
  • Your bank or building society details (unless you're already receiving the state pension)
  • Your employment info and latest payslip if working (or your P45 if you've recently left work)
  • Your course details if you're studying
  • Details of any expenses (see what counts as expenses)
  • The date of birth and address of the person you're caring for
  • And either their national insurance number if they're 16+, or their disability living allowance reference if they're not

Step 3: Check if you can backdate your application and submit your claim

You can apply for carer's allowance online. If you're in England, Wales or Scotland, fill in this carer's allowance application form. Or it's this carer's allowance application form if you're in Northern Ireland.

Alternatively, if you live in Great Britain and can't (or don't want to) apply online, you can call the Carer's Allowance Unit on 0800 731 0297 to request a form, or you can download a form, and apply via post. See alternative application methods in Northern Ireland.

IMPORTANTLY, before submitting your carer's allowance claim, make sure you first check if it can be backdated. This needs to be requested on the form. Claims can usually be backdated by up to three months, as long as you were eligible during this period.

And it can sometimes be backdated further – if you claim within three months of the person you care for getting a decision about their qualifying disability benefit, carer's allowance can be paid back to the date this benefit was awarded from (as long as you met the carer's allowance conditions for this whole period).

Step 4: Claim rejected? You have one month to challenge the decision

If you are refused carer's allowance, you have the right to challenge the decision. This is called asking for 'mandatory reconsideration'. It's important to do this quickly – you have to do this within one month.

If you still disagree after this, you must lodge an appeal with the Tribunals Service (England, Wales and Scotland) or the Appeals Service (Northern Ireland) and attach a copy of the mandatory reconsideration notice with the appeal. 

Carer's allowance need-to-knows:

  • Does my carer's allowance count as taxable income?

    Yes, carer's allowance IS taxable.

    But if that's your only source of income, you won't need to pay any tax on it, as you'll be below your personal tax allowance of £12,570.

    However, if you have other sources of taxable income – from employment for example – and this combined income takes you over this threshold, you will need to pay tax.

    This won't be deducted from your carer's allowance payment, so you'll need to inform HMRC that you're receiving carer's allowance, to make sure it's aware and it adjusts your tax code accordingly.

  • What counts as expenses?

    To qualify for carer's allowance, you need to earn £151 a week or less, after tax, national insurance and expenses.

    Eligible expenses you can declare include:

    • 50% of your pension contributions
    • Equipment needed to do your job, or business costs if you're self-employed
    • Travel costs between different workplaces that are not paid for by your employer
    • Some of your care costs if you pay a carer to look after the person you care for (or your children) while you work. Care costs that are less than, or equal to, 50% of your earnings can be treated as an expense, but the carer you pay can't be your spouse, partner, parent, sibling or child
  • Does carer's allowance affect my state pension or benefits?

    You can't usually get carer's allowance if you receive more than £81.90 from one of the following benefits, as the overlapping benefits rule applies:

    • Contribution-based employment and support allowance
    • Incapacity Benefit
    • Maternity allowance
    • Bereavement or widow's benefits
    • Severe disablement allowance
    • Contribution-based jobseeker's allowance

    However, you can still make a claim which will give you an 'underlying entitlement' to the benefit. This means you'll receive written confirmation that you meet the criteria for carer's allowance, which can be used as evidence of your caring commitments, and could even mean you're eligible for an increase to the means-tested benefits you're receiving.

  • Will the benefits of the person I care for be affected if I claim carer's allowance?

    If the person you are looking after is getting means-tested benefits, your claim for carer's allowance could affect how much they get. And if they receive a 'severe disability premium' as part of these means-tested benefits, this will definitely stop when you claim carer's allowance.

    For more information on this, contact Carers UK by emailing advice@carersuk.org.

  • What happens if I need a break?

    You can take a break from caring for up to four weeks in every 26 weeks and still be paid carer's allowance. You must have been providing 35 hours or more of care a week for at least 22 of the past 26 weeks (up to eight weeks of a stay in hospital for either you or the person you are looking after can be included in the 22 weeks). The person you have been caring for must have been receiving a qualifying benefit for that period. 

  • Do I need to report a change in circumstances?

    You MUST report a change in your circumstances or the circumstances of the person you care for.

    A change in your circumstances can include changes to your employment status or earnings, or a change in the care you're providing.

    A change in their circumstances can include them going into hospital, taking a holiday, or moving into a care home.

    You can report all of the above and more using this Gov.uk form.

    However, you cannot use the link above to report the death of the person you're caring for – use the Government's Tell Us Once service instead.

    You can usually continue to get carer's allowance for up to eight weeks after the person you are looking after dies, as long as you continue to meet the age, study, earnings and residence criteria.

Is there any extra help for carers?

2284109733

The Care Act 2014, which came into force in April 2015, sets out carers' legal rights. Part of it includes giving carers a right to request a 'carer's assessment' from their local authority.

This assessment is carried out by a professional from your council who will work out how being a carer affects your life and assess what the council can do to help that. Young carers (aged under 18) can also apply for an assessment.

For more information on carers' assessments, see guidance from the Carers Trust and the NHS.

For help and support, carers in England can also call the NHS Carers Direct helpline on 0300 123 1053. For UK-wide support, you can email Carers UK at advice@carersuk.org.

MSE weekly email

FREE weekly MoneySaving email

For all the latest deals, guides and loopholes simply sign up today – it's spam-free!

Spotted out of date info/broken links? Email: brokenlink@moneysavingexpert.com