Mary emailed to ask if she can claim carer’s allowance for looking after her husband Michael, who has various health problems including the onset of dementia. They are both in their 80s.


The answer is complicated.

Carer’s allowance is £76.75 a week and to get it you need to look after another person for at least 35 hours a week. That is a “pay rate” of £2.18 an hour – not very much – and it’s taken away if you work and earn more than £139 per week. The person you care for must get a benefit for their disability, such as attendance allowance, personal independence payment or disability living allowance.

Michael would certainly qualify for attendance allowance and if he doesn’t get it already he should apply. It’s £68.10 a week if he needs care by day or by night, and £101.75 if he needs both.

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If he does, could Mary claim carer’s allowance? Yes, but she would almost certainly not get any extra money. Carer’s allowance is not paid on top of the state pension: you get whichever is the higher, and that is nearly always the pension.

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Some people, especially women, get less than £76.75 a week state pension, so carer’s allowance would mean a bit extra. But everyone aged 80 or more is entitled to a state pension of £93.60 a week even if they haven’t paid enough National Insurance contributions to get one under that age. It is called a Category D or over-80s pension. So anyone aged 80 or more with a state pension less than that amount should apply to have it boosted. The Department for Work and Pensions has failed to pay it automatically to many who are eligible.

Finally, even if carer’s allowance will not mean more money directly, it can mean a bigger entitlement to other benefits like pension credit and council tax reduction. So it is worth applying for anyway, as those are always worth claiming if you are over 66 on a low income.
For more information, try the

Government’s helplines – for carer’s allowance ring 0800 731 0297; pension credit 0800 99 1234; state pension 0800 731 0469 or Independent Age 0800 319 6789.


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