Can I get support as a carer?

You don’t have to do it all yourself, but it can be hard to know what support is available and how to get it. There are lots of different kinds of support and you may find some more useful than others.

Photo of carer and patient holding hands Sue Ryder advice and support information

Support available as a carer

Someone to care for your friend or relative so you can take a break and leave the house

This is normally described as ‘social care’ and is part of the support you may be able to get through your local authority. There are also private firms and voluntary sector organisations you can access without having to go through social services – your local carers centre will be able to give you details of these.

Help with some of the day-to-day activities of caring

From washing your friend or relative to helping them to go to the loo - this is also part of the support you may be able to get through your local authority.

Help with everyday household chores

Shopping, cooking and cleaning can become difficult, so help here is also part of the support you may be able to get through your local authority.

Equipment and adaptations to your home

These can make day-to-day activities easier - such as a raised toilet seat or a hoist for getting in and out of the bath. Your district nurse can do an assessment to identify what services, aids and adaptations might help.

Support for your emotional well-being

Help such as carers groups, counselling, and complementary therapies are generally available for free. Your local carers group is often a good place to find out what is available or you may be referred for support following your carers assessment.

You can find local support groups through the following organisations:

What is available varies from area to area and also depends on people's illness and the stage they're at, but there are generally a wide range of resources and support available wherever you live. Your District Nurse is often a good place to start and they normally know what’s available locally and how to get things moving.

Getting support from your local authority

Your local authority has a legal duty to assess any carer who requests a carer’s assessment or who appears to need one. The assessment is a discussion between you and a trained person from the council or from an organisation that works on behalf of the council.

Your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing will be at the heart of this assessment. This means that you will be able to tell the council how caring for your friend or relative is affecting your life and what you want to be able to do in your everyday life. The assessment will also consider the support you may need if you want to stay in your paid job or return to paid work and the support you may need if you want to continue or start studying or training.

The Council will use the assessment to identify what support you need and to discuss with you how this can be provided. This support could include being offered money to pay for things that make caring easier. Or the local authority might offer practical support, such as help with housework, or arranging for someone to step in when you need a short break. NHS Choices provides helpful and detailed information about your rights to a carers’ assessment, what an assessment involves, how to prepare for your assessment and what happens next.

What are my options if I need to give up work?

It can be really difficult to balance your caring responsibilities with your job, and people often feel that they need to give up work. But this is a big decision. Not only can this sometimes make you feel more isolated, as you lose contact with colleagues and friends, but it can also have a financial impact on both your income now and your pension in the future. Before you decide to give up work, it is worth talking to your employer, as you have certain rights that are protected in law, and there may be some options that mean you don’t have to give up work completely.

Options if you need to give up work

Flexible working

If you’re caring for someone, you’re entitled by law to request flexible working. Flexible working doesn’t necessarily mean part-time hours – you may be able to work the same hours but at times that suit you, such as evenings or weekends, or to work ‘core hours’ with a flexible start and finish time, or perhaps to work from home.

Carers UK has helpful further information about this option.

Part-time working

You may be able to keep your job, but reduce the hours that you work, usually by working fewer days. There is no specific number of hours that makes someone full or part-time, but a full-time worker usually works 35 hours or more a week. It will be up to you and your employer to agree what hours you will work.

Taking a career break

Whilst you do not have a legal right to take a ‘career break’, your employer may have a policy that allows people to request a period of unpaid leave during which your job is kept open for you, or you may be able to agree one. Although you should be aware that these agreements are not legally binding.

Support for your caring responsibilities to enable you stay in work

Your local authority has a legal duty to ensure that appropriate care or support is available if you want to stay in your paid job or return to paid work. You are entitled to request a carer’s assessment to have your support needs assessed.

Can I take a break or leave the house?

Getting out of the house is important, not only because there may be tasks that you need to do, like getting some shopping, but also as part of taking a break from your caring responsibilities and looking after yourself. Sometimes you may be able to ask other family members or friends to share some of the responsibility, but there are also lots of other ways you can get support to enable you to go out. If the person you are caring for is willing and able to, they may be able to attend a local day centre, or, if they prefer to stay at home, you may be able to use a local befriending scheme, where a volunteer will come and sit with them.

This person is not a trained health professional, but is a volunteer with additional training who can provide emotional support to you both. If you need to pay for a carer, there is a benefit called Attendance Allowance which is a regular payment made to the person who is unwell designed to cover the additional costs of being ill, and which you can use to pay for a carer (as well as other things, such as if you need a taxi or extra heating).

If you need a longer break, the person you are caring for may be able to stay in a care home for a short period (this is called respite care). This can normally be arranged quite quickly if you need it.

From April 2015 you are also entitled to ask your local council for a carer’s assessment. The Council will use this to identify what support you need and to discuss with you how this can be provided.

What is available varies from area to area and also depends on people's illness and the stage they're at, but there are generally a wide range of resources and support available wherever you live. Speak to your lead health professional and they can advise and help you find the right support.

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