Universal Credit makes a number of changes to the benefits paid to working age carers. The information given here applies for people who are already claiming benefits as a carer and explains the changes they can expect to happen. More information about the current benefits system is available from Carers UK
For information about changes to the benefits that are paid to the disabled person you are caring for you should refer to other sections of this website.
Carers and claims for Universal Credit
Carers who experience a change in circumstances such that they need to claim a new benefit may be advised to claim Universal Credit in the same way as other types of claimants. If you are claiming Income Based Job Seekers Allowance then this will trigger a move to Universal Credit . However making a new claim for Carers Allowance if you are receiving Income Support, Income Related Employment and Support Allowance , Tax Credits or Housing Benefit does not trigger a transfer to Universal Credit. If you are not sure that you are claiming your full benefit entitlement see our Where to Get Advice page
Carers who get Carers Allowance only
Carers who are receiving only Carers Allowance will not experience any benefit changes. The current rate of Carers Allowance is £64.60 per week (£66.15 from April 2019). Most benefits paid for people who are under pension age are frozen. Depending on what other sources of income are available this may mean that some carers will need to consider possible claims to means-tested benefits. For more information on this seek advice.
Carers who receive means-tested benefits like Income support, Income Based Job Seekers Allowance, and Housing Benefit
Carers on these benefits will continue to receive their current benefit until they are transferred on to Universal Credit. Universal Credit will replace all the main means-tested benefits for people of working age including Housing Benefit. If there are no new claims made for any of these benefits claimants will remain on the current benefit system until the start of managed migration which is currently scheduled to start in November 2020. At the point of transfer there will be no income reduction so the level of benefit paid will either increase or stay at the same rate due to Transitional Protection rules. There are some additional issues for carers who also receive Employment and Support Allowance which are dealt with below.
There are some changes to the qualification tests for payment of Carer Element (the replacement for Carers Premium). It is not necessary to have an entitlement to Carers Allowance to become entitled to the Carer Element. The test for entitlement to the Carer Element is that you are caring for a severely disabled person for at least 35 hours per week there is no earnings limit as there is for Carers Allowance which has a current earnings limit of £120 per week (£123 per week from April 2019). This means that some people who could not claim Carers Allowance or Carers Premiums will be able to claim a Carer Element under Universal Credit.
What Happens to Universal Credit if the cared for person dies?
The Universal Credit rules are also slightly different if the cared for person dies.
Under the current means-tested benefits the Carers Premium continues in payment for 8 weeks from the Sunday following the death (or the date of death if this occurs on a Sunday). When you are transferred on to Universal Credit the Carer Element will continue to be paid for the rest of the month when the death occurs and for the two following months. If the cared for person was a partner or a dependent child then the overall Universal Credit will continue for the same period and will not be reduced.
Carers who receive Income Related Employment and Support Allowance
Carers on Income Related Employment and Support Allowance will continue to receive their current benefit until they are transferred on to Universal Credit. Carers who are also too ill to work are treated differently under Universal Credit as Universal Credit rules prevent cannot claim both the Carer Element and the Limited Capability for Work or Limited Capability for Work Related Activity Element. Under Universal Credit you get whatever is the highest amount. The monthly rates for these three additions are
Carer Element £156.45 (£160.20 from April 2019)
Limited Capability for Work £126.11
Limited Capability for Work Related Activity £328.32 (£336.20 from April 2019)
This means that if you are a carer who also has limited capability for work (this is the equivalent to the current work related activity group) you will receive the carer element of £156.45 (£160.20 from April 2019) as this is higher. If you are a carer who also has an entitlement to limited capability for work related activity (which is equivalent to the current support group) you will receive the limited capability for work related activity rate as this is higher.
For many carers who are also too ill to work it is likely that this change will represent a reduction in your benefit rate when you are transferred on to Universal Credit. If you are moved as part of the managed migration process you will be protected from losing out financially. This means that when you are transferred on to Universal Credit you will continue to get the previous benefit rate which will be frozen until the new rate of Universal Credit catches up with it. More information about this is available in the Universal Credit Transitional Protection article.
Carers and the Universal Credit Claimant commitment
Most people who claim Universal Credit will be expected to look for work in order to claim Universal Credit. However it has been accepted that carers who look after one or more disabled people for at least 35 hours per week do not need to do this. As separate conditions attach to each adult claimant in a couple it is possible that the carer’s partner will have to look for work. More information about this is available in the article about Your Responsibilities if you get Universal Credit.