Author Ben Leonard
In a move that could be placing their pensions in peril, up to 230,000 unpaid carers may not be claiming carers credit, according to an article printed on the MoneySavingExpert website late last week.
With 1 in 8 adults in the UK estimated to be carers, around 6.5 million people are forced to juggle work with the demands of caring for someone or are forced to give up work altogether.
And the number of us with caring responsibilities is only predicted to rise, with an anticipated 9 million carers in the UK by 2037.
What is carers credit?
In essence, carers credit is a national insurance credit towards your state pension.
Normally, when you work, you would make national insurance payments. Your state pension is then based on your national insurance record. You have to work a certain amount to qualify for the full state pension.
If you don’t work because, for example, you have to care for someone, there could be gaps in your national insurance record.
If you’re one of our 6.5 million carers, it’s essential that you look into whether you can claim carers credit, in order to fill in any holes in your national insurance contributions when you’re not working.
Why is carers credit so important?
When you’re caring for someone, you may have to give up working.
Carers Credit enables you to take on those caring responsibilities, without them negatively impacting upon your ability to qualify for the state pension, when you reach retirement age.
Do you receive any money by claiming carers credit?
No. Carers Credit is a way to ensure that your state pension isn’t put at risk, just because you need to care for someone.
It is a completely separate benefit to carer’s allowance. Those who don’t qualify for carer’s allowance may still qualify for carer’s credit.
Will you get carer’s allowance, too?
Carer’s allowance is separate to carers credit.
In order to qualify for carer’s allowance, you will need to care for someone for a minimum of 35 hours per week. For more information on eligibility criteria for carer’s allowance, head to the government website.
If you’re already receiving carer’s allowance, you should automatically be getting carer’s allowance credit. This means that you should not need to worry about making another claim for carers credit.
Additionally, you won’t need to apply for carer’s credit if you get child benefit for a child under 12 (you’ll automatically get credits) or you are a foster carer. Foster carer’s can apply for national insurance credits instead. Head to the government website for more information.
Are you eligible to apply for carers credit?
In order to qualify for carer’s credit, you will need to be aged between 16 and the state pension age and be looking after one or more people, for at least 20 hours a week.
Also, the person who you’re caring for should get either: disability living allowance care component at the middle or highest rate, attendance allowance, constant attendance allowance, personal independence payment (daily living component at the standard or enhanced rate) or armed forces independence payment.
If you’re caring for someone who doesn’t receive one of these benefits, you may still be able to get the carer’s credit. If this applies to you, you’ll need to complete the ‘Care Certificate’ part of the application form. A health or social professional will then need to sign it.
Again, it’s worth noting that you could get carer’s credit, even if you don’t qualify for carer’s allowance.
According to the government website, your income, savings or investments will not affect your eligibility for carer’s credit.
Head to the government website to get your application form.
How far back can you claim carers credit?
You’re only able to claim your carer’s credit as far back as the previous tax year. This means that you should be able to claim carer’s credit from the start of the 2016/2017 tax year, up until the end of this tax year (5 April 2018).
Can you take a break and still receive carers credit?
You’re allowed to take breaks of up to 12 weeks in a row and still qualify for carer’s credit. This could include a short holiday, the person you look after going into hospital or you going into hospital.
You’ll need to inform the Carer’s Allowance Unit if you have a break of more than 12 weeks in a row.
Is there any disadvantage in applying for carers credit?
The worst that can happen is that your application is not approved.
If you’re not able to work and pay your national insurance contributions because you’re looking after someone else, it may be worth applying for this in the hope that you will qualify for the credits.
Why put your state pension at risk unnecessarily?
According to charity Carers UK, carers save the economy £132 billion per year, which works out at an average of £19,336 per carer.
Additionally, Carers UK estimates that 625,000 people suffer mental and physical ill health as “a direct consequence of the stress and physical demands of caring”.
As a carer, life can be busy, to say the least. If you’re entitled to carer’s credit to plug up those holes in your national insurance, due to you not being able to work because you’re caring for someone else, you should consider applying.
When you’re potentially saving the economy so much money every year, it would seem grossly unfair to reach state pension age and find out that you may not qualify for the pension that you expected and, arguably, deserved.
For more information about carer’s credit, you can call the Carer’s Allowance Unit on 0345 608 4321.