Today we might hear from the odd celebrity telling their story of what it’s like to care for someone they love.  Or we might we hear something about the impact the illness of a loved one has had on the family.  In some ways both these stories are connected as they have one thing in common ‘carers & families’.

Who is a Carer?

The definition of a carer is not simple, because many people do not see themselves as carers.  Why?  Because first and foremost a carer is usually someone who looks after, or helps to look after a family member, unpaid, whether it be a child, a partner, wife, mother, brother, sister, dad, relative, neighbour or friend because they need help due to illness, disability or infirmity.

Most of us would just help out when someone is needs it, not because we need to but because we want to, so to call yourself a carer would simply not enter into your thinking, whether you are a female or male carer.  Okay we may say I care for my ‘daughter’, ‘wife’ etc because s/he suffers from, so we acknowledge our caring roles and or responsibilities in the task we do to help someone.  Even if you do not want to use the label ‘carer’, this does not mean that you should miss out on benefits and other help such as a much needed break – help which you are entitled to.

If you are a carer it is important that you know what rights you have and any benefits you may be entitled to.  Many agencies, carer organisations and citizens’ advice will be able to help you with information on your rights to benefits and services

What Help Can Carers Expect?

There are many statutory obligations on local authorities to support carers and inform carers that they may be entitled to a carer’s assessment.  But in reality a high percentage of carers do not claim benefits or ask for a carers assessment or indeed seek help to care for a loved one.

I need to work, what help is there for me?

Carers also have the right to take (unpaid) time off work for dependents in cases of emergency.

The Employment Act 2002 gives working parents of disabled children under 18 the right to request flexible working arrangements.   Requesting flexible working (flexi-time, part-time, job sharing, working from home or just adjusting your daily working hours) arrangements to helps balance the needs of your job and caring commitments benefits not only the carer, but the employer and cared for person.

You have a right to ask for flexible working arrangements if you have worked for at least 26 weeks and are responsible for a child under 16 years of age (or a disabled child under 18 who receives Disability Living Allowance), or if you are a carer of a spouse or civil partner or other adult who lives with you.

If are having difficulty balancing your work and caring responsibilities, you should consider applying for flexible working arrangements.  If you do decide to apply, you should first talk to your employer and provide as much information, and if you can, state what hours or flexible working arrangements would help you.  All employers must consider any application request you make, although they are not legally obliged to agree – but they might offer a compromise.

There are many employers who recognise, and value the work and commitment of their employees, who often are often unaware of the pressures and or of the caring responsibilities and commitments their employees may have outside working hours, so it’s important that you give your employer the opportunity to consider an application for flexible working


If you are unsure if you are entitled to any benefits, or are simply unsure of what benefits you may be entitled to, then you should ask for a benefits check.  To find out if you are eligible for any benefits contact:

  • your local council, welfare advice office who will arrange for a welfare rights adviser to meet with you and help you complete any forms
  • contact the CarersLine on 0808 808 7777
  • your local benefits office
  • the pension credit helpline (if you are 60 years of age or over) on 0800 99 123
  • or click on the following web link

Health & Well Being

It is important that carers look after themselves and seek help and support not only for the person they care for but for themselves.  There is much documented research evidence to show that the stresses and strain of caring for a loved one can impact upon a carers physical and mental health.

It is important that carers have access to services, even someone to talk to about their fears, thoughts, feelings or someone just to chat about what’s happening in the world around them can be enough.

If you are a carer and need someone to talk to there are a number of agencies and organisations out there who will be able to help you.

See contacts section for details.