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Carers: help and support

This advice applies to Scotland

You can get help and support if you are looking after someone who is unwell, has a disability or is getting older. You could get practical help to make day-to-day life easier or you could get financial help by applying for Carer's Allowance for example.

Are you a carer

You're probably a carer if: 

  • you care for and support someone - you do things like help someone wash, dress and eat, you take them to regular appointments, do their shopping or keep them company. The person could be a family member or a friend
  • it’s not your job - you don't do this under a contract or as part of voluntary work
  • if you look after a child, its not just because of their age - if you are caring for a child for some reason other than their age, for example, because they have a disability, then you are a carer. 

You don't have to be living with the person you're caring for and you don't have to be caring for them for any particular amount of time. 

You may also be a carer if you are going to care for someone in the future. For example, someone who was previously healthy may need some care when they get out of hospital and you may have agreed to look after them then. 

You may be a carer even though the amount of care you give changes over time. For example, you might care for someone who has a mental health condition and whose health varies. They may not need any help when they are well but you may have agreed to help if and when their health worsens. 

Caring for someone with a mental health problem

If you care for someone with a mental health problem, you have rights to be involved in decisions about their care. There is more information about these rights on our page Mental Health.

Looking after a child who is a relative

If you look after a child who is a relative, such as a grandchild, niece or nephew, because their birth parents can’t look after them, then you are a 'kinship carer'. You may be able to get help to look after the child from your council even if they don’t have any extra need for care other than their age, such as a disability. There is more information about what help you might be able to get on our page Kinship care.

What practical help can carers get

Your council might be able to arrange practical help for you so that you can care for the person you look after more effectively and to reduce any stress you are under. This could include things like arranging for someone else to step in for a while to give you a break or providing extra support for the person you look after to give you more time for your other responsibilities. 

To see if you can get practical help, you'll need to ask for an Adult Carer Support plan if you are an adult or a Young Carer Statement if you are a child or young adult (you usually need to be under 18). All carers are entitled to either an Adult Carer Support Plan or a Young Carer Statement. 

Getting an Adult Carer Support Plan

Contact the council covering the area where the person you care for lives. You may be able to do this online through the council's website. Tell them you're a carer and ask them for an Adult Carer Support Plan. 

You can ask for an Adult Carer Support Plan at any time and you can also ask for a review if your needs change or you need more support. 

There is no set time limit in which the council must draw up your Adult Carer Support Plan although it should be done within a reasonable time. The council should give you an idea of how long it is likely to take. 

Find your council on the Scottish Government website.

How the Adult Carer Support Plan is drawn up

You will usually have a face to face meeting with a trained person, either from the council or another organisation that has a duty to support carers or is working with the council. The meeting could be at your home or the home of the person you care for. Alternatively you might speak to the trained person on the phone or via a video call. 

At the meeting, you’ll talk about things like:

  • time - how much time you spend caring for the person you look after
  • tasks - what sort of tasks you need to help them with, such as getting dressed, bathing, shopping, eating or dealing with money
  • impact on your life - whether carrying out your caring duties leaves you with enough time for your work, family and hobbies, and whether you are able and willing to carry on caring
  • your concerns - whether any aspects of caring for the person are particularly hard to deal with, for example, do you worry about your own safety when helping them up the stairs
  • your health - how caring is affecting your physical and mental health
  • emergencies - do you have any plans about what would happen to the person you care for if you are ill or have an accident, for example
  • the future - do you have any plans about what you would like to happen in the future. For example, who is going to care for the person you look after in the future, might they need to move into a care home and if so, how will you pay for care home fees.

It might be a good idea to spend some time before the meeting thinking about how caring for someone affects your life and what might make things easier for you. 

Getting a Young Carer Statement

If you are a young carer, you can ask for a Young Carer Statement. You are a young carer if you are under 18 or aged 18 and still at school. 

Who you need to ask for a Young Carer Statement depends on your circumstances. You should ask: 

  • your council – you should ask the council for the area where you live if you go to a state school
  • your school - you should ask your school if you go to an independent or grant-aided school
  • your health board – if you know a pre-school child (a child who has not yet started primary school) who is caring for someone, such as an ill parent, you can contact the health board for the area where the child lives.

You may be able to ask your council online through the council’s website. Tell them you’re a carer and ask them to draw up a Young Carer Statement for you. 

You can ask at any time and you can also ask for a review if your needs change or you need more support. 

There is no set time limit in which the relevant body must draw up your Young Carer Statement although it should be done within a reasonable time. The council should give you an idea of how long it is likely to take. 

Find your local council on the mygov.scot website.
Find your health board on the Scottish Government website.

How the Young Carer Statement is drawn up

You will usually have a face to face meeting with a trained person, either from the council or another organisation that has a duty to support carers or is working with the council. The meeting could be at your home or the home of the person you care for. Alternatively you might speak to the trained person on the phone or via a video call. 

At the meeting, you’ll talk about things like:

  • time - how much time you spend caring for the person you look after
  • tasks - what sort of tasks you need to help them with, such as getting dressed, bathing, shopping, eating or dealing with money
  • impact on your life - whether carrying out your caring duties leaves you with enough time for your school work, seeing friends and hobbies, and whether you are able and willing to carry on caring
  • your age - whether aspects of your caring role are inappropriate for you given your age
  • your concerns - whether any aspects of caring for the person are particularly hard to deal with, for example, do you worry about your own safety when helping them up the stairs
  • your health - how caring is affecting your physical and mental health
  • emergencies - do you have any plans about what would happen to the person you care for if you are ill or have an accident, for example
  • the future - do you have any plans about what you would like to happen in the future. For example, who is going to care for the person you look after in the future, might they need to move into a care home and if so, how will you pay for care home fees.

It might be a good idea to spend some time before the meeting thinking about how caring for someone affects your life and what might make things easier for you. 

What support will carers get

Your Adult Carer Support Plan or Young Carer Statement will set out what support you might need if you wish to carry on caring and what could help you live your life outwith your caring role. The Plan or Statement will set out any needs you have and how they will be met. 

Each council has its own local eligibility criteria which it uses to decide what support you are entitled to. Councils have a duty to support carers who have needs that meet the local eligibility criteria. This means you have a right to this support. 

Each council must publish its eligibility criteria so you can ask for a copy or have a look on their website. 

Find your council on the Scottish Government website.

Councils also have a power to support carers even if they do not meet the local eligibility criteria. This means that it is at the council’s discretion whether to provide the support that you need if you don’t meet the eligibility criteria. 

Examples of the type of support that you might be able to get are:

  • information and advice - information and advice about your situation
  • help with benefits - checking what benefits you can get and help with applying
  • support from other carers - such as carer cafes and support groups
  • a break from caring - such as a short break or respite
  • emotional help - such as counselling or stress management sessions
  • training - carer training courses
  • leisure activities - like walking groups, swimming, singing or art. 

Short breaks (respite care)

You might be able to get a short break from caring as part of the support provided to you under your Adult Carer Support Plan or Young Carer Statement. A short break (sometimes called 'respite care') is a type of support that allows carers to have some time away from their caring role. 

There is no duty on councils to provide short breaks to carers but they must think about whether the support that you need should include a short break. 

There are lots of different types of short breaks. Examples include: 

  • holidays or activity breaks - holidays, sports or activity breaks (with or without the person that you look after)
  • care for the person you look after - breaks at day care for the person you care for or overnight or in a care home
  • childcare - specialist play schemes or after school clubs for the child that you care for
  • funding for you - funding for something you would like to do such as relaxation therapies, going to the cinema or getting a magazine subscription.

You can find out about short breaks in Shared Care Scotland’s online directory of short break and respite care services in Scotland. This is available on the Shared Care Scotland website.

Carers don't have to pay for support

You don't have to pay for any support you get as a result of your Adult Carer Support Plan or your Young Carer Statement.

If carers are unhappy with the support they get

If you're unhappy with your Adult Carer Support Plan or Young Carer Statement and the decision about what support to give you, you should contact the council.

You can also complain if you didn’t like the way that you were treated.

All councils should have a complaints procedure you can follow – ask them for a copy or look on their website. Read more about this on our page about making a complaint about social work or social care services.

Find your council on the Scottish Government website.

Help with money for carers 

You may be able to get help to increase your income if your caring duties are affecting your finances. 

Depending on your income, assets and living arrangements, you might be able to:

  • claim benefits - apply for Carer’s Allowance and other benefits. There is more information about Carer's Allowance on our page Carer's Allowance
  • cut down household costs - cut down your household costs, including gas and electricity bills (there is more information on our page about saving money on your gas and electricity), a free or discounted TV licence from TV Licensing or council tax discounts (there is more information on our page Council tax)
  • protect your state pension - have your contributions towards your state pension covered by the government if you've given up or cut down paid work to care for someone - Carers UK has advice to help you protect your pension
  • get a grant or other help - get a grant or other financial help from a local charity or trust - Turn2Us has details of charities that might be able to help you.

You can get free and impartial help to sort out your finances if you're worried about having enough money to live on and meet your existing commitments (there is more information about this on our page Get help with your debts). You could get help with budgeting, learning how to make your money go further and dealing with debt problems. 

You can get help from an adviser at a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.

Help for carers from their employers 

You don’t have to tell your boss about your caring responsibilities, but if you’re an employee, your employer must offer you certain legal rights. These include:

  • flexible working - anyone has the right to ask for flexible working. This might mean reducing your hours or working from home. There is more information about this on our page Flexible working - what is it
  • time off in emergencies - meaning if the person you care for falls ill, has an accident or is without care unexpectedly, you have the right to take time off work to deal with it. There is more information about this on our page Time off work - overview.

Your employer isn't obliged to offer you more than your legal rights, but some workplaces have policies that might give you more support or time off, for example through applying for a career break. Check with your employer or HR department to find out more.

Protection from discrimination for carers

You're protected from discrimination because of your caring responsibilities. This means you can take action if you think you've been treated unfairly because you're a carer. For example, you can't be refused a promotion at work because of your caring responsibilities. 

There is more information about protection from discrimination for carers on the Carers UK website.

Support from other carers

You may find it helpful to speak to other people who understand the issues carers can face. Carers UK has details of local support groups and online forums where you can meet other carers like you. 

Help for the person you're caring for

Making sure the person you’re caring for gets all the social care and support they’re entitled to could mean your role as a carer is made easier. They're entitled to get a care needs assessment from the council. Depending on the person’s situation they may also be able to:

Organisations for carers

Every council has to have an information and advice service for carers, covering things like carers' rights, how to maximise your income, and education and training for carers. This will normally be provided through a local carer centre. 

Find your council on the Scottish Government website.

If you need further help or advice, there are also a number of national organisations you can contact.

These include:

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