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Caring for others can sometimes mean we forget to take care of ourselves. Explore this guide for helpful advice on what it means to be a carer, the different types, and how to look after yours and their wellbeing at the same time.

Being a carer

Caring can be rewarding, but it can also take its toll on your wellbeing. To really support others, it’s important to understand your role, rights, get help when you need it, and know when to take a break.

Carers provide unpaid support to family or friends who can’t manage themselves due to illness, disability, mental wellbeing or substance misuse. Carers can:

  • Be of any age
  • Be full-time or part-time
  • Share support with others
  • Provide short, mid or long-term support

Whilst every situation is unique, let’s explore the range of support a carer might provide:

  • Physical care, like helping someone use the stairs, or get into and out of bed
  • Personal care, like helping someone wash, dress, or use the toilet
  • Medical care, like giving someone medication or injections
  • Practical tasks including buying food, cooking, housework, or managing medical appointments and personal finances
  • Emotional support

As a carer it’s important to know your own rights and entitlements, so you can get the support you need:

  • Receive a carer’s assessment from your local authority to determine additional support that may be available based on your needs
  • Get direct payments from social services if they determine you’re in need of help
  • Receive a carer’s allowance if you’re over 16, not in full-time education, earn below a certain amount and care for someone for 35 hours a week or more
  • Benefit from workplace rights like requesting flexible working and time off for emergencies

I’m so much happier now my partner has the support she needs. And the knock-on effect is that I’m less stressed. Before I thought I had to cope with everything on my own, and now I don’t .

– Sophia, our client

Steps to stay ahead

Follow the steps below to make sure you’re caring for yourself as well as those around you.

Get additional support for you and those you’re caring for, with a carer’s or needs assessment from the local authority. Assessments are free, and designed to see what can be done to make yours and their lives easier by meeting both of your eligible needs. For a carer’s assessment, this may include:

  • Help with housework or day-to-day jobs
  • Training to help you with your caring role
  • Equipment or adaptations to yours or their home
  • Counselling to support your mental wellbeing
  • Respite care to give you a break
  • Benefits advice
  • Activities to support your physical wellbeing, including exercise classes

For a needs assessment, this may include:

  • Equipment or adaptations to their home
  • Additional help from qualified carers
  • Day care for children of those you’re caring for
  • Access to local day centres and lunch clubs
  • Guidance on moving to a care home

Explore more about carer’s assessments and needs assessments. And remember, you can challenge an assessment if you don’t think the outcome is helping.

Caring can affect your ability to do your job effectively. The good news is your employer may be able to help support your dual role of carer and employee, with reduced working hours or flexible working. Explore the basics of flexible working below:

  • You can request flexible working if you’ve been with a company for 26 weeks or more, though it’s never guaranteed
  • There are two types, non-statutory and statutory. Non-statutory isn’t governed by law, and will follow an internal policy procedure. Statutory is governed by law, including a written request and decision-making process
  • Flexible hours come in various different forms:
    • Hours of work, where you choose core hours, usually 10am – 4pm
    • Compressed hours, where you work your total contracted hours over fewer working days
    • A job-share, where you share the work and pay of a single full-time job with someone else
    • Working from home, allowing you to work entirely from home or split your time between your workplace and your home
    • Annualised hours, where you work contracted hours over a year but the actual hours change weekly or monthly
    • Term-time work, where you only work during school term times so that you’re free during school holidays
  • When making your request, think about the following and have a meeting with your line manager or HR to talk things through:
    • Why you want to work flexibly
    • What type of change you’re asking for
    • How long you want to do it for
    • Any impact on your role and your colleagues
    • How you’ll manage the impact
    • That you’re making a statutory request for flexible working
    • How it will improve your wellbeing, caring ability and performance at work
  • If your employer doesn’t approve your request, make sure they explain why. If you’re unhappy with their decision, explore these options with support from Citizens Advice:
    • Make an appeal
    • Raise a grievance with your employer
    • Make a discrimination claim
    • Speak to ACAS or the Labour Relations Agency
    • Claim constructive dismissal
    • Make a claim to an industrial tribunal

If juggling your job and caring is still too much, seek help and advice. Ask your line manager or HR about an employee network you could join to find out more, or give us a call to talk things through.

Use our helpful benefits calculator to see what you might be entitled to, and explore our benefits and grants guide for available support for you and those you care for.

Find out about carer’s allowance which could provide support from financial help, to a Blue Badge for parking in disability spaces when you’re caring for them or when they’re driving alone. Dedicated support is out there.

For Blue Badge applications:

Sometimes those we care for lose the ability to make decisions for themselves. A ‘power of attorney’ can help you to keep supporting them by making important decisions on their behalf.

There are two types of power of attorney; financial and health. Anyone over 18 with the mental ability to make decisions for themselves can arrange a power of attorney. If the person you’re caring for is unable to make those decisions, visit Carers UK, or give us a call to talk things through.

Make sure your GP is aware of your situation. They may be able to offer more flexible appointments, a carer’s flu jab or refer you to your local carer support network. They’ll also be better placed to support your wellbeing if you’re stressed or anxious.

Caring can be a big commitment, so it’s perfectly normal to need a break from time to time. Make a formal plan and try to stick to it, including time to socialise with others and focus on your hobbies. This may even be funded as a respite break, as a result of your carer’s assessment.

Talking to others can be helpful, especially if they’re in a similar situation. Think about these small steps to help support your wellbeing during your caring journey:

  • Ask your GP or carers’ organisation about support groups you can attend in your area, and look for condition-specific as well as general carers’ groups. Contact Carers UK, the Carers Trust or the Children’s Society (for young carers), who may be able to help with additional physical or financial support
  • Join an online forum to share your experiences, frustrations and ideas
  • Ask friends and family for help. It could be help with your caring responsibilities, tackling some of your day-to-day admin or even just a reassuring chat

If you still have questions, we’re here to listen. Or if you need a respite break, your local council can help.

Sometimes caring can become too much to handle, and that’s OK. Help is within reach. Ask your GP or your local carers’ group about counselling to help you manage the different aspects of caring, including:

  • Transitioning to becoming a carer
  • Adjusting to the changing roles in your caregiving relationship
  • Helping people with personal or intimate care
  • Prioritising both yours and their wellbeing

Caring for children can seem overwhelming, but with the right fit you’ll be in a good place to support both of your wellbeing:

  • Think about what will work for you and for your child. From flexibility, ratio of children to staff, to costs if you can’t provide care yourself. Take the time to make the right decision, and be aware that places may fill up quickly
  • Explore the different kinds of childcare:
    • Nurseries offer full or part-time support from birth until your child starts school or turns five. Here they’ll interact with other children and develop social skills
    • Registered childminders can take care of up to six children under age eight in their own home. They provide tailored care and usually offer flexible pick-up or drop-off times
    • Nannies provide support in your own home and can live in or out. Their hours vary, so they’re a flexible option. If you choose to hire one you’ll be regarded as their employer so you’ll need to set up tax and National Insurance payments
    • Au pairs look after your children and help around the house in return for food, accommodation and a small allowance. They’re rarely qualified as a child carer so generally aren’t given sole responsibility of very young children
    • Informal childcare includes sharing childcare with friends or family. Family members taking care of your child can apply for working Tax and National Insurance Credits as long as they’re of working age
  • If you’re working, speak to your line manager or HR about an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) for childcare support
  • Finding the right fit can seem daunting, but these tips may help:
    • Shop around to get the best childcare costs, as they can vary hugely
    • Only use a registered childcare provider. Use Ofsted for England, the Care Inspectorate for Scotland, Care Inspectorate Wales for Wales, and Family Support NI for Northern Ireland
    • Meet up with whoever will be looking after your child to make sure you and your child will be comfortable with them
    • Learn what’s included in the fees. From meals, to nappies and milk, or even days out. Understand what they’ll supply, and what you’ll be responsible for
    • Find out if they’re open all year or just during school terms, as you may need to make other arrangements during holidays
    • Think about the ratio of staff to children. Will it best suit your child?
    • Ask about flexibility to make sure any arrangements can still work with changes to your routine
  • Childcare can be expensive and have an impact on your wellbeing. But support is there in a number of different ways:
    • Get childcare vouchers taken from your salary and paid directly to the childcare provider, giving you a tax saving. They’ll just need to be registered to accept these vouchers
    • Have direct payments set up by your employer and sent directly to your childcare provider. You won’t have to pay tax or National Insurance up to a certain amount
    • Receive free ‘early years’ childcare for all three and four year olds in the UK. Visit NCT or MoneyHelper for more information, including what hours you’re entitled to based on where you live
    • Apply for Working Tax Credit if you work for at least 16 hours a week and pay for registered childcare. If you’re eligible, it can help cover up to 70% of your childcare costs
    • Get tax-free childcare for children under 12, or under 17 if they’re disabled, with the youngest accessing the scheme first. The Government will fund 20% of your yearly childcare costs
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