If you're living with the person you look after and they're awarded Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or Attendance Allowance (AA), complete a claim form for Carer's Allowance (CA) as soon as possible after the award has been made.
If they already get DLA or AA, make a claim now. You can make a claim by calling the Carer's Allowance Unit on 0345 608 4321, or by claiming Carer's Allowance online.
However, if the person you look after is living alone and receives a means-tested benefit, your claim for Carer's Allowance may affect their means-tested benefits. You can still make the claim for Carer's Allowance, but should think carefully about the implications before you do.
Getting Carer's Allowance can mean you're entitled to, or can get more, top-up benefits. For more information on what benefits you're entitled to, try the entitledto benefits calculator.
Read on, or click on the links below for more information:
Backdating Carer's Allowance claims
Carer's Allowance can usually only be backdated for a maximum of three months if you claim it within three months of a decision to award a qualifying benefit to the person you care for.
You must specifically request that your Carer's Allowance claim is backdated, and you must have satisfied all the rules for claiming Carer's Allowance during the backdating period. You can also challenge a decision not to backdate Carer's Allowance if your request is refused.
Delays in receiving Carer's Allowance
Carer's Allowance is paid into a bank or building society account either weekly in advance or every four weeks. If you don't receive your benefit payment when you would normally expect it, contact the Carer's Allowance Unit to find out whether payment has been lost, delayed or suspended. You can make a complaint about a delay you experience.
You can also ask for an interim payment of benefit, which you'll get if the DWP believes you're entitled to some benefit but it's not possible for the claim to be dealt with immediately. If you're allowed an interim payment, the amount will be deducted from any later benefit payments.
If you're refused an interim payment, you can't appeal to a tribunal, but you may be able to apply for judicial review of the decision.
Compensation for delay
You can ask for a discretionary payment if you lose money because of a delay in payment of benefit. This might cover the cost of telephone calls or stamps, for example.
You may be entitled to compensation if the DWP causes a significant delay and the arrears of benefit are £100 or more and the compensation would be at least £10.
You can ask for a payment that covers the benefit you have lost, as well as an additional amount to cover interest on the arrears.
Compensation payments are discretionary, so, if it applies, you should emphasise that the delay was caused by error or negligence on the part of the DWP. If you're refused compensation, you could consider asking your MP to take up your case.
You can also ask for a "consolatory" payment if you feel the delays or errors have caused you gross inconvenience, the DWP has embarrassed or humiliated you, or the distress the DWP has caused has affected your physical or mental health.
Suspended payments of Carer's Allowance
Benefit payments can be suspended if you haven't provided further information to the DWP when asked, if it is still making a decision, or if it is investigating an overpayment.
If your benefit has been suspended, you could explain to the DWP that the suspension will cause hardship and ask for an interim benefit payment. If the DWP is still waiting for information, ask what's missing and try to provide this information.
There is no appeals procedure against the decision to suspend benefits. However, in extreme cases you may be able to get legal help to challenge the decision in court.
How changing circumstances affect Carer's Allowance
If your circumstances change, you will need to let the Carer's Allowance Unit know as it may affect your entitlement to Carer's Allowance. It's best to put any changes in writing as soon as possible after the change has happened.
Examples of changed circumstances include, for example, that you are no longer spending at least 35 hours a week caring for the person, if you take a paid job, or your earnings increase.
If your circumstances change in such a way that you may no longer be entitled to the benefit, report the change as quickly as possible.
You must report it to the Carer's Allowance Unit. Call 0345 608 4321 (textphone 0345 604 5312) or write to Palatine House, Lancaster Road, Preston, PR1 1HB. If you don't act quickly, you may be overpaid benefit and have to pay it back.
Your Carer's Allowance can stop if either you or the person you're looking after goes into hospital or a care home for NHS- or local authority-funded care. You should notify the Carer's Allowance Unit, as well as the disability benefit centre of the person you look after, of the dates either you or they spend in hospital or a care home.
If you go into hospital
Your Carer's Allowance will continue to be paid if you go on holiday for up to four weeks in any 26-week period, or up to 12 weeks if you go into hospital. However, Carer's Allowance may stop sooner if you have already been on a holiday and then need to go to hospital.
For more information, see Going into hospital or the Age UK leaflet on going into hospital (PDF, 2Mb).
If the person you're looking after goes into hospital or a care home
If the person you look after goes into a hospital or care home, it can affect their PIP, DLA or AA claim as well as your Carer's Allowance.
In most cases the DLA care component, PIP or AA will stop after the person you're looking after has been in hospital or a care home for 28 days, and that's when Carer's Allowance will also stop.
If the person you're looking after has been in hospital for less than 28 days, is discharged and then returns to hospital within 28 days of leaving, the two periods they're in hospital are added together and treated as one period.
If the person you're looking after goes into hospital and their PIP, DLA or AA has not stopped, you'll continue receiving Carer's Allowance for up to 12 weeks while they're in hospital.
During these 12 weeks, you don't have to provide any care. After these 12 weeks, you will have to show that you're still providing 35 hours of care each week for your Carer's Allowance to continue.
Similar rules apply if the person you look after goes into a care home, but Carer's Allowance will only be paid for up to four weeks for a care home stay.
Find out how to challenge a Carer's Allowance decision that you're unhappy with.