The criteria for claiming benefits are constantly changing and it is helpful to get expert, current advice particularly as other benefits may be affected. Specialist national Carers’ organisations can be very helpful here such as Carers UK https://carersuk.org or call the local Carers Centre.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) also has a good website: www.gov.uk/dwp
“You don’t know what you want until you have it!”
This is not an assessment of how capable you are as a Carer but an opportunity to consider your own needs and to look at what help there may be available for you. It also makes your status as the Carer more formally recognised.
The person who carries out the assessment is likely to be a Social Worker or Resource Officer, although in some areas they are completed by workers from the NHS or from a voluntary organisation such as the local Carers Centre.
It is a long-term assessment, not a crisis plan, that should be renewed annually or if the situation changes. It can take a while for the assessment to happen; there is often a waiting list. The form covers topics such as your health and wellbeing, whether you are managing any risks or high levels of stress or anxiety, your options to pursue work, training or leisure activities, and other topics that may affect your ability to continue this support.
The worker who completes the assessment will also give information about what help is available for you. This may be about other resources, referral to voluntary organisations that offer emotional support, counselling, or Carer support groups. In some situations practical help may be offered, but this usually only happens when there is cause for serious concern.
Other benefits of having a Carer’s assessment include:
Carers personal budget
A one-off payment to provide a something you need that will support you as a Carer such as a washing machine, evening class or short break.
Carers Card This identifies you as a Carer, carries CRESS details (see below) and can be used to claim a discount in some shops.
Carers Respite Emergency Support Service (CRESS)
This scheme allows an emergency plan to be activated at any time with one phone call. You, or a professional who finds your card, could trigger it if you cannot get home. It may mean
a relative/neighbour steps in, or if necessary a local authority worker makes sure the cared-for person is all right. This is available out of hours and at weekends. It can be reassuring, especially if you are the sole Carer. ( May be only available in some areas).
One of the most problematic issues for Carers in MH is that there are few options for respite unless you have family or friends that will help. Several
voluntary organisations offer someone to stay with a person while the Carer goes out for a while. If the person you support won’t be alone, but is prepared to have a new face in the house while you go out, it is worth asking through the local Carers Centre. It is particularly important if you have a healthcare appointment for yourself – funding is available for
respite so you can go.
However, if the cared-for person objects to this arrangement it can’t happen. Usually the ‘sitter’ is a volunteer and cannot be expected to cope with complex or risky situations either. This means that Carers most under pressure from stressful situations are least likely to get respite. The reality is that the choices are few.
If you have an emergency then tell the MH team and ask if they can help at all but it is very difficult to get a hospital bed when the person themselves is ok but the carer isn’t. However they may be able to increase support at home.
In many places there are MH resource centres that offer one to one support and options to socialise for the service user. If they would like to be more sociable but are not ready for the wider community would they try these? Ask your MH team for local options.