Jane Stanfield is Associate Practitioner with Dementia Carers Count and leads our sessions on carers’ rights. Jane originally trained and practiced as a solicitor before deciding to move into social care. Having worked with adults with learning disabilities and then older people with dementia, she specialised in supporting carers and over the last 25 years has developed and delivered services for carers and raised awareness of carers’ needs in London, Birmingham and Gloucestershire.
This Thursday 21 November is Carers Rights Day. You may not have known that such a thing existed, but there has been an annual awareness day for some years with the purpose of
- informing carers of their rights,
- pointing them to sources of help and support and
- raising awareness of carers’ issues with the wider public
As an associate practitioner with Dementia Carers Count, I enjoy leading sessions on the three-day courses and some of the one-day courses for dementia family carers, and among other things I usually cover carers rights under the Care Act, rights at work and rights to benefits. I find that some rights are less well-known and which might be missed. So, in the spirit of Carers Rights Day I will flag them up here.
Many carers are eligible for Carers Allowance, a benefit intended to mitigate some of the loss of earning power which caring may cause. A recipient of Carers Allowance will automatically be credited with a National Insurance “stamp” so that they continue to build up rights to the state pension even though they are not paying National Insurance. But not all carers can claim Carers Allowance for various reasons; for example, if the person they are caring for refuses to claim the relevant disability benefit, or if they are caring for 30 hours a week rather than 35. If they have not already built up a full entitlement to their pension then they will lose out if they are unable to earn enough to pay their National Insurance. Carers credits allow pension entitlement to be protected. For more information and to apply for the credits visit the Gov.uk website.
Carers’ Disregard for Council Tax
Council Tax bills are drawn up on the assumption that there are at least two adults living in a property. If there is a single occupant then there is a 25% reduction in the bill. Some adults are ignored for Council Tax purposes, such as students and those with a “severe mental impairment”. Less well known is that in some circumstances carers can also be disregarded for Council Tax. The carer must:
- not be the spouse or partner of the person needing the care
- be caring at least 35 hours a week
- be living in the same property as the person needing the care (who must be over 18)
- the person needing the care must be in receipt of the appropriate disability benefit (Attendance Allowance, Personal Independence Payment daily living component or Disability Living Allowance middle or high rate care component)
Sometimes both the carer and the person needing the care can be disregarded. If there are no other adults in the property then a 50% reduction is possible. For more details visit the Carers UK website.
Protection from discrimination under the Equality Act
Carers are protected from direct discrimination and harassment in the same way as someone with a disability is protected. Discrimination because of caring for someone with a disability is “discrimination by association” and is considered in the same way as direct discrimination of someone because of a disability. This is worth remembering if, for example, you are passed over for promotion because you are a carer. Carers UK set out this and other carers rights at work here.
Happy Carers Rights Day!