Do you look after someone? Are you an unpaid carer?

The Welsh Ambulance Service is running it’s Carers Survey for the second year and we would love to hear your stories and your thoughts on how the Welsh Ambulance Services could better meet your needs.

Take a look at some of the engagement work that we have done with carers on this video.

A carer is someone who unpaid and regardless of their age, care for someone who is disabled, ill or elderly.

In the UK, there are approximately six million unpaid carers.  Many people may not see themselves as carers, but simply as someone who is helping to look after a friend, or relative, who is elderly, ill, or disabled.  It is important that carers are identified as early as possible in the caring journey to ensure that they get any financial or practical help they may need and have choice and control over their day to day lives.

Who can be a carer?

Anyone can be a carer, including those who are under 18 years of age. Carers who are under 18 years of age are known as young carers.

What does a carer do?

Carers carry out tasks for someone who is unable to manage on their own. This may involve personal care, such as bathing, cooking, and dressing, physical help with moving around, or carrying out errands, such as shopping, or picking up prescriptions.

Support for carers

Caring for someone can be both physically and emotionally demanding.The everyday tasks that need to be performed and the change in circumstances can put a strain on the relationship between the carer and the person they are caring for.

Several forms of assistance are available for carers which can include financial support, practical support, employment rights at work, help in providing care, and local carer's support groups. All carers have the right to a carer's assessment by their local council in order to help determine the level of support that they need.  The Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 applies to people in need, of any age and introduces equivalent rights for carers to those they care for.  Every carer is entitled to a needs assessment regardless of the amout or type of care provided.  As soon as it appears to a local council that a carer may have a need for support they must offer an assessment.  You can find out more about the Act and your rights by following these links:

Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act

Working with carers

Your entitlements as a carer

If you are a carer, you are entitled to a number of different types of support, depending on your personal circumstances. The various types of support that you may be entitled to are outlined below.

Carer's Allowance

If you are a carer and you over 16 years of age, you may be eligible to receive Carer's Allowance. Carer's Allowance is the main form of financial benefit that is available to carers. Currently, the amount of Carer's Allowance that you can receive is £62.10 a week.

To be eligible for Carer's Allowance, you must be over 16 years of age and:

  • care for someone  for at least 35 hours a week, normally live in England, Scotland or Wales
  • you’re not in full time education or studying for more than 21 hours a week
  • not be earning more than £110 a week (after taxes, care costs while you’re at work and 50% of what you pay into your pension)
  • not be receiving any of a list of other benefits, including Incapacity Benefit, State Retirement Pension and contribution-based Job Seeker's Allowance,

Some carers may also qualify for the Carer Premium, and may be able to receive an extra weekly sum of money in addition to the Carer's Allowance. The Carer Premium may also be available for those who cannot claim Carer's Allowance due to receiving another benefit.

See the 'selected links' section for more information about qualifying for the Carer's Allowance and the Carer Premium, plus how to claim.

Employment rights for carers

Sometimes, it can be very difficult to combine caring for someone with having a job, and some carers find that they have to give up working in order to care for someone full time.

Since the Employment Act 2002 became law, working parents of disabled children under 18 have the right to request flexible working arrangements. Furthermore, since April 2007, you also have the right to ask for flexible working if you are a carer of an adult who is a relative or lives at the same address as you.

While you have the right to ask for flexible work in these circumstances, it is important to know that employers are not bound to grant these requests. However, they must give business reasons for refusing a request for flexible working.

Emergency time off

Carers also have the right to take unpaid time off work for dependants (the people they care for) in an emergency.

All employees have the right to take unpaid time off for emergencies (also known as time off for 'dependants'). It does not matter how long you have worked for your employer you still have this right.

It is a good idea to check your contract or company policy for your employer’s policy on time off for dependants. Your employer may pay you for this time off, but this decision is up to them.

A dependant can be your mother or father, your son or daughter, or anybody who lives with you as a member of your family and is solely dependant on you. A dependant can also be someone who would rely on your help in an emergency, such as an elderly neighbour who lives alone.

What counts as an emergency?

There are a number of situations that count as an emergency:

  • When your care arrangements are temporarily disrupted (such as when a nurse doesn’t arrive), or break down completely.
  • When someone you're looking after dies and you need to make arrangements or go to the funeral.
  • When someone you're looking after is ill or has been assaulted (for example, has been mugged, or your child has been in a fight),
  • When you need to make arrangements for the long-term care of someone you're looking after who is ill or injured (but this does not include giving them long-term care yourself).

How much time off?

There is no formula for the amount of time you can take off to care for a dependant. Your rights allow for a 'reasonable' amount of time off. Each case is different, but in most cases, one or two days may be enough.

There is no set limit on how often you can claim time off for dependants, as long as you are dealing with real emergencies. If your employer feels that you are taking more time off than they can cope with, they need to let you know.

What do I need to do?

If you need to use this right to take time off, you need to let your employer know as soon as possible. If you are back at work before you have been able to tell your employer that you have taken time off, you still need to let them know why you were away from work.

If the problem takes longer to deal with, let your employer know as soon as you can, explaining why you need more time and how much longer you think you will need. Put this in writing if you can. Your employer may have a form for you to fill in.

What if I am turned down?

If you think you have been unreasonably refused time off, you can make a complaint to an employment tribunal. You should do this within three months of your request for emergency leave being turned down.

Having the right to take time off for dependants can give you some legal protection. If you think your employer has treated you unfairly because you have taken time off to deal with an emergency or to help a dependant, ask your union or a legal adviser for advice.

Young carers

If you are a carer, and you are under 18 years of age, it is very important that you receive the help and support that you need.

Your local council has a responsibility to ensure that your duties as a carer do not interfere with your education, development, and overall quality of life. They must also ensure that you do not become trapped in your role as a carer.

Having a needs assessment is the first stage in helping a child and their family and there are particular considerations that apply to the needs of children.  The assessment process for children will be carried out under the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 but there will also be a requirement that practitioners gather evidence from the Framework for Assessment of Children in Need and their Families to inform where necessary the care and support plan.   Refusal of an assessment must be over-ridden where such a refusal would be inconsistent with a child’s well-being.

Parent carers of disabled children

A parent carers is omeone over 18 who provides care for a disabled child (under 18) for whom they have parental responsibility.  The Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act requires local councils to assess parent carers on the appearance of need or where an assessment is requested by the parent.  This assessment can be combined with one for the disabled child, and could be carried out by the same person at the same time.  The local council must also be satisfied that the child and their family come within the scope of the Act.  A local council cannot charge for care and support to a child.

As a carer, it is likely that you will be used to taking on responsibility by yourself. However, that does not mean that you always have to cope on your own, or that you cannot ask for help from others.

The following advice may help to make your duties as a carer easier.

Recognise yourself as a carer

Although you care for someone who needs your help, you may not see yourself as a carer. This is not uncommon; many carers see their role as simply taking on what needs doing, or as looking after a friend, or family member.

However, it can help to realise that you are a carer, and to allow yourself the status of being a carer. This means being aware of your rights and entitlements as a carer, informing others of your role, and getting all the help that you need.

Let friends and family help

You may feel reluctant to ask friends or family members for help with your caring responsibilities, and they may hesitate in offering to help for fear of implying that you cannot cope on your own. However, carrying on without the help of those closest to you is not good for you, and can affect your own health and well-being.

Try talking to your friends and family about the extent of your role as a carer, and letting them know that you would welcome their support. Accepting help does not affect your ability as a carer, and even small things, such as help with doing odd jobs around the house, or taking an occasional break from caring, can make a positive difference.

Remember to care for yourself

One in five carers has reported to Carers UK that their own health has been affected as a direct result of caring for someone else. Carers often develop back problems due to lifting without proper training, and many carers are affected by stress-related health conditions.

It is easy to ignore your own well-being when you are looking after someone else. However, if you are a carer, it is important to that you regularly take some time to do something that you enjoy, such as relaxing with a book, or visiting friends. Taking time to care for yourself will help to prevent stress and tiredness, and can make caring easier.

Carers UK - Back up plan

When you care for someone, having a contingency plan in place can give you peace of mind if an unforeseen or unplanned event happens and you are not able to continue caring. To create a good contingency plan that meets your needs and the needs of the person(s) you care for, there is a lot to consider. Carers UK has developed a simple tool to help you build your own back-up plan.

Carers Emergency Card

Carers often tell us that they worry about what would happen to the person they care for if they had an accident or became incapacitated.

 In response to this, Carers Wales has developed a new card for you.

Should an emergency or accident happen, by carrying this card it will let emergency workers and others know that someone relies on you as a carer. The card provides spaces for emergency contacts, for example family or friends who can help.

You can also get a key fob with 'I am a carer' on one side and a emergency number of your choosing on the reverse that can be kept on your keys at all times.

You can obtain a card or key fob by calling Carers Wales on 029 2081 1370 or e-mailing us

The following advice may be useful in enabling you to get the help and support that you need as a carer.

Tell others that you are a carer

The first step to getting help as a carer is to inform others of your situation. There is no national register for carers, but letting healthcare professionals, your employer, and those who are close to you, know about your role as a carer, can give you access to many different forms of support.

If you are a carer you should tell those listed below.

  • Your GP - they should ensure that you have regular health checks, receive a flu jab, and may be able to provide flexible appointment times, or home visits.
  • Your local social services - who can give you a carer's needs assessment (see below) to determine the level of help that you need, offer replacement care to give you a break, and provide assisted living aids and equipment,
  • Your employer - who is obliged to offer you flexible hours and time off at short notice (see the 'facts' section).
  • Your family and friends - do not be afraid to ask for their help if you need it.

Have a carer's assessment

The Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 applies to people in need, of any age including carers.  Where it appears that a carer may have a need for support, regardless of the amount or type of care provided, the financial means of the carer or the level of support that may be needed the local council must offer an assessment.

You are entitled to a carer's assessment even if the person you are caring for does not wish to receive support from social services or has been assessed but the local council has decided that they are not eligible for support.

Your assessment will be undertaken by your local council in order to decide what you need to begin, or to continue, caring. You should be offered an assessment once it appears that you may have a need for support, now or in the future.  You are entitled to an assessment whether or not you live with the perso that you look after or not.  If you are not offered an assessment, you can request one when you inform social services of your role as a carer.

Both you and the person you care for will be involved in the assessment, although you are legally entitled to a seperate carer's assessment with your social worker if you want it.

Your social worker should look at every aspect of your role as a carer, including the physical problems you might have, as well as the employment, emotional, and social aspects of your life. This can be a lot to think about at once.

How a carer's assessment can help you

Some of the forms of carer support that your assessment may grant you are listed below. The type of support that you can receive may depend on the services that are available in your local area.

Home care

Home care includes help with general household tasks, such as cooking and shopping. It may be available through social services.

Day care

Day care centres can offer the person you care for an opportunity to take on new hobbies and arrange days out, and they can also provide you with a break from caring. Day care centres are run by social services departments, or voluntary organisations, such as charities.

Assisted living devices

Assisted living devices include gadgets and devices that can make everyday tasks easier for a disabled person and their carer, such as handrails, hoists, and tap turners. In some cases, the person you care for may also be given a grant that they can use to adapt their home to meet their needs.

Direct payments

Direct payments are payments from social services that allow you, and the person you care for, to buy the services that you need, instead of having them provided directly by social services.

After your assessment, your social worker will draw up a care plan outlining which services you can receive and the level of help and support you have been granted. If you are not happy with the result of your assessment, or how it was carried out, you can make a complaint through the Citizen's Advice Bureau (CAB).

Claim your financial benefits

As a carer, you may be entitled to receive financial support in the form of the Carer's Allowance. Some carers are also eligible to receive an extra amount of money called the Carer Premium. See the 'facts' and 'selected links' sections for more information about the Carer's Allowance and the Carer Premium.

Carers Trust Wales is delighted to be working with Network Partners across Wales to deliver £1m of grants and services to support carers who are experiencing hardship this winter. Find out more here.

Contact your nearest carers group or centre

Carers groups and centres offer information, support, and a way to meet and socialise with other people in your area who are also carers.