Carers who don’t qualify for carers allowance might not be receiving the national insurance credits (NICs) they are due, which means they could lose out on valuable state pension contributions.
If a carer works less than 35 hours a week looking after a loved one, they are not entitled to carers’ allowance.
For this reason, a scheme called ‘carer’s credits’ was set up by the government in 2010 to help carers who look after loved ones between 20 and 35 hours a week accrue NICs, which are used to generate eligibility for the state pension.
But charity Carers UK and financial services provider Royal London are calling for the government to more widely publicise what appears to be a somewhat forgotten scheme.
A Freedom of Information (FOI) request submitted to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) by Royal London found that in the tax year 2016/17, just 3,524 people made a new claim for the credit.
DWP told Moneywise that as of October 2017, 13,700 people were in receipt of the credit. However, this is a far cry from the initial projection of 160,000 made in 2010.
Steve Webb, director of policy at Royal London says: “These schemes are introduced with the best of intentions, but they become no more than window-dressing if virtually nobody actually takes them up.
“Governments cannot simply hope that people find the information on official websites or rely on the occasional ministerial press release. It is time for proactive communications with those who are meant to benefit so that far more people get the help to which they are entitled.”
A DWP spokesperson comments: “The number of applications for carer’s credit has consistently increased year on year.
“It is vital that carers get the support they need which is why we work closely with disability and carer charities and groups, the media and provide information on gov.uk to raise awareness of this important benefit.”
Emily Holzhausen OBE, director of policy and public affairs at Carers UK, adds: “Caring for more than twenty hours per week has a big impact on someone’s ability to hold down a job and pay national insurance contributions.
“The carer’s credit is a good scheme but it needs much more effective publicity. Caring often impacts negatively on health, wellbeing and ability to work and yet carers’ contribution to the economy is worth billions a year. They should not lose out financially in retirement as well.”
How to apply for carer’s credit
Carer’s credit is a national insurance credit which protects a carer’s future state pension by filling in gaps in their national insurance contribution record.
It is designed for those aged between 16 and state pension age who are caring for one or more people for at least 20 hours per week and do not qualify for carer’s allowance. The credit helps carers to continue to build state pension qualifying years, so they can protect their future state pension while carrying out their caring responsibilities.
To be eligible the person being cared for must receive a qualifying disability benefit or be certified by a health or social care professional as requiring the amount of care being given.
To get the full basic state pension, you need a total of 30 qualifying years of national insurance contributions or credits.
For more information on eligibility and how to apply for carer’s credit, visit https://www.gov.uk/carers-credit or call 0345 608 4321 (Monday to Thursday, 8:30am to 5pm; Friday, 8:30am to 4:30pm).