Carer’s NI monitored calls to its advice line for Detail Data. Here are some of the calls they received. These individuals are now considering their options after speaking to an advice officer.
Anne is thinking of giving up fulltime work to look after her mother who has dementia. She lives with her mum and goes home at lunchtime but is finding that her mother’s needs are increasing.
Carers NI discussed with her the possibility of getting a care package from her local trust so someone could visit Anne’s mum while she was at work. However, her mum is resistant to having strangers in the house.
Anne was talked through her right to a Carer’s Assessment and was referred to the carer co-ordinator in her local trust.
Carers NI carried out a benefit check for Anne based on her circumstances if she was to leave work. She would have no other income and has savings of less than £1,000. She has no outstanding mortgage or housing costs. Her mum receives Attendance Allowance so Anne can apply for Carer’s Allowance and will also be entitled to Income Support. This would give her an income of £107.70 per week and she will receive NI contributions through her Carer’s Allowance so her pension contributions will remain up to date.
Sean is receiving Carer’s Allowance for his wife who has MS. Sean has been offered 16 hours part time work per week at the living wage (£7.20 X 16 = £115.20). If Sean takes the job this will leave him £5.20 over the earnings limit of £110 and his Carer’s Allowance would stop.
He was advised that half of any personal pension contribution could be deducted from his earnings. Therefore if he was to pay £12 per week into a personal pension, £6 would be deducted from his earnings bringing his net pay down to £109.20 per week. Sean would therefore be able to work and continue to claim Carer’s Allowance.
Patricia cares for her partner who has mental health issues and her son who has autism. She is finding it increasingly difficult to cope with the situation and was distressed when she called. She feels that she needs additional support to help her to continue caring.
Patricia was talked through a Carer’s Assessment. It was highlighted that the assessment could lead to services such as counselling, stress management or complimentary therapies, which she felt would benefit her greatly.
She was advised to contact the carer co-ordinator for her local trust to request a referral for her assessment.
Patricia was also informed about a local carer support group in her area where she could meet with other carers who would understand her situation and how she is feeling. She agreed for the Carers NI facilitator to contact her to give her further information.
She was also given details of Carers NI Listening Ear service, which she could phone to speak to a trained volunteer for emotional support. She can also join the Carers UK forum for online support from other carers.
Jennifer cares for her partner who has had a stroke. She works fulltime and her employer has said that she has to take annual leave or unpaid leave if she needs to take her partner to medical appointment. Jennifer wanted to know if her employer could do this and what rights she has as a working carer.
Carers NI explained that there is no legal right for carers to take paid leave to take the person they look after to appointments. Jennifer was advised to find out if her employer has a carer’s leave policy, which would outline what if any, carers leave they grant. It was highlighted that this may still be unpaid.
Flexible working was discussed with Jennifer and advised that she could make a request for example, to compress her hours or work flexitime. Her employer would have to consider the request, give an answer in writing and would have to give a good business reason to refuse her request. She could also appeal the decision if her request was refused.
Jennifer was advised to contact her union to help her make the request and to guide her through the process.
Marie cares for her husband who has Parkinson’s Disease. She has been told that she should claim Carer’s Allowance. Marie is in her 70s and receives a state pension of over £119 per week.
It was explained that as the government deems both Carer’s Allowance and the state pension to be earnings replacement benefits, she cannot be paid both at the same time – this is known as the overlapping benefit rule. As her pension is higher than Carer’s Allowance (£62.10 per week), then Carer’s Allowance cannot be paid. However, Marie would still have ‘underlying entitlement’ to Carer’s Allowance which may help her claim a means-tested benefit such as Pension Credit. Eligibility for this will look at her income and savings as well as those of her partner.
A quick benefit check established that their combined incomes from state and occupational pensions means that they would not be entitled to Pension Credit.
Marie was extremely frustrated that she could not claim Carer’s Allowance because of her pension so Carers NI recommended that she contact her local MP/MLA to raise the issue with them.