There are an estimated seven million carers in the UK and the numbers look set to grow as the population continues to age. While few begrudge looking after their loved ones, it can put a strain on family finances, particularly if someone has to give up work or go part-time to help out.This can be quite a burden, so as well as caring for somebody else, you also need to take good care of yourself.
Deborah Stone, who runs website www.maturethinking.co.uk and has just published The Essential Family Guide To Caring For Older People,said many elderly people are reluctant to accept they need help, so you may have to start the conversation: “They are often scared about losing their independence, but openly discussing what they can and can’t do will help clarify their needs.”
Call in siblings and other family members, and discuss issues such as who runs their finances, and does paperwork.
“Consider any family objections in advance, so you can answer them calmly and knowledgeably,” she said.Give everyone time to come to terms with the new situation and never lose your temper. Stone added: “People do not like change, so the process must be managed gradually.”
Do not let sibling rivalry or past family arguments get in the way, and make sure the burden of care is shared as equally as possible: “Those living further away could make calls and pay bills, while those physically closer could pop in from time to time.”
Stone said there is one more thing every carer needs to do: “Don’t feel guilty, you can only do your best.”
Unpaid carers are effectively propping up the social care system and state support is minimal, said Rachael Griffin, tax and financial planning expert at wealth manager Quilter. “Carer’s allowance is worth just £66.15 a week, but that is still better than nothing,” she said.
To qualify, you must provide at least 35 hours of regular care a week to someone who has a disability. Claim online at www.gov.uk, or call 0800 731 0297 for a form.
You do not qualify if you earn more than £123 a week, and the Government has been clawing back benefits from more than 70,000 carers, some of whom inadvertently went just a pound or two over the earnings threshold.
Griffin said the benefits system is too complex: “Carers are doing a vital service to the economy and now the Government is weighing them down with stress and debt.”
More than 2.6 million employees aged 45 and over, roughly one in five,expect to leave their job to care for a relative or partner, according toinsurer Aviva.
Griffin said this can hit your ability to save for later life: “If you formally register as a carer you can claim national insurance credits towards the state pension, which is some help.”
Partners in work should help out where possible. “It may be both tax efficient and responsible if they fund your pension,” she said.
You can pay up to £3,600 a year into a personal pension on behalf of anon-working family member, and claim tax relief at 20 per cent.
When one family member needs care, everyone else needs to chip in as well.
Harvey Jones, The Sunday Express November 17, 2019