A carer is someone who provides unpaid care and support to a family member, friend, partner or neighbour who has a disability, has an illness, is frail, has mental-health difficulties or has alcohol- or drug-related problems. This includes people who receive Carer's Allowance.

Many people do not see themselves as carers. They think of themselves as family or friends.

Finding out what your needs are

If you care for someone you should be told about, and involved in, matters relating to their care. When a social worker or care co-ordinator assesses the needs of the person you look after, you should be able to be involved and have your views considered as part of that assessment.

When Adult and Culture Services assess the needs of the person you care for, your own needs may also be met. However, you may benefit from having your own needs assessed separately. This is called a Carer's Assessment. Many carers are entitled to this. This assessment gives you an opportunity to look at your caring role and what it means to you. You can also look at any areas where you feel you need more support or information, or any difficulties you might experience with your caring role.

A Carer's Assessment is not a test. It is a chance for you to explain what your caring role is and what your needs are. It may help you find out about support that could help you.

Who will carry out the Carer's Assessment?

In Newcastle, there are specialist social workers who do Carer's Assessments for adults who are caring for adults.

To ask for a Carer's Assessment, or to find out more, please contact the Adult Social Care Direct Team. If the person you look after already has a care co-ordinator or social worker, you could speak to them about getting a Carer's Assessment too.

Sometimes the social worker who deals with the person with care needs can do the Carer's Assessment. This will only happen if you and the social worker agree that this would be best for everyone involved.

The person you are caring for should usually have had their own needs assessed before you receive a separate Carer's Assessment. However, you may be entitled to a Carer's Assessment even if the person you look after has refused to have their social care needs assessed. If you think this might help, please contact the Adult Social Care Direct Team.

Who is entitled to a Carer's Assessment?

If you are an adult aged 18 or above, you could have a Carer's Assessment if you provide, or intend to provide, a substantial amount of unpaid care on a regular basis for someone aged 18 or above who lives in Newcastle. The care you give does not have to be a particular number of hours and could include a range of care tasks. If you are a young carer aged 16 or 17, you may also receive a separate Carer's Assessment if in exceptional circumstances.

If you are not sure you are entitled to a Carer's Assessment, but feel you would benefit from one, please contact the Adult Social Care Direct Team for advice, or alternatively speak to the care co-ordinator or social worker of the person you look after.

What will the Carer's Assessment be about?

The Carer's Assessment will focus on your needs and will help you to talk through issues you want to discuss. This may include things such as the following.

  • Do you have any support?
    This could be formal support, such as home care or support from a carer support organisation, or informal support from family or friends.
  • Is caring affecting your health?
    This could be your emotional or physical health.
  • Do you know what you would do in an emergency?
  • Are you able to do things you want to do?
  • Are you able to do the things you have to do?
    This includes other commitments you may have, for example if you work.
  • Is caring having an effect on other areas of your life?
  • Would any information or support help you?
    For example support with applying for benefits.
  • Do you feel you are listened to and your views are considered by the professionals involved in the care of the person you look after?
  • Do you have any views about what you want for the future?

What benefits might I be entitled to?

Being a carer can have a big effect on your finances. When you are looking after someone you may:

  • Have to reduce the hours you work;
  • Have to stop work altogether; or
  • Need advice so that you and the person you look after get all the help and support you are entitled to.

Many carers do not claim the benefits and tax credits that they are entitled to. This may be because:

  • The benefit system is complicated and people are put off by it;
  • They are put off claiming because of complicated forms and processes; or
  • They do not know what help they may be entitled to.

You and the person you care for may be able to apply for benefits such as:

  • Income Support;
  • Carer's Allowance;
  • Pension Credit;
  • Housing Benefit;
  • Council Tax Benefit; and
  • Tax credits.

You may also be entitled to health-related benefits, such as:

  • Employment and Support Allowance;
  • Disability Living Allowance; and
  • Attendance Allowance.

Who do I talk to for advice on benefits?

If you want to make sure that you are not missing out on any benefits, it is important to get a benefit check.

A number of organisations provide free, independent advice about benefits.

The Newcastle Welfare Rights Service can offer this help and advice and has a special service for carers. They can check that you are receiving all the benefits you are entitled to, and help you fill in claim forms. They can also help you if you want to appeal against a benefit decision or need help to sort out a debt problem.

If the person you care for goes into hospital

If the person you care for needs to go into hospital, this can be a worrying time for you and them. There are often a lot of things you need to remember. The following list may help you to make sure you don't forget some important things.

  • Have you given the hospital staff your contact details?
  • Have you given the hospital staff a list of any medicines the person you care for needs, and told them about any special dietary needs or allergies they have (for example if they are diabetic or have any nut allergies)?
  • Have you made sure that the person you care for has got their glasses, hearing aids or dentures (if they have them)?
  • Have you thought about whether the person you care for will need a small amount of money, for things such as newspapers, while they are in hospital?
  • Have you cancelled any care or support services that may come to help and any appointments the person you care for may have while they are in hospital?
  • Have you told the staff about the person's special communication needs (if they have any)?

What happens when the person I care for comes out of hospital?

When someone you care for is in hospital, you should start planning as early as possible ready for when they leave. If you want to be involved in the decisions the hospital staff make, it is important to make sure that the hospital staff are aware of this. If you do not understand something, do not be afraid to ask staff to repeat it, explain it in more detail or write it down. It is not always easy to remember all the questions you want to ask, so you may want to write them down before you go to the hospital.

Speak to the ward staff if you are concerned about how you will manage when the person you care for leaves hospital.

The following list may help you to make sure you have covered the important points when the person you care for is about to leave hospital.

  • Do you know the date the person you care for will leave hospital and have the hospital agreed on it with you and the person in hospital?
  • Have you got details of any follow-up appointments they have?
  • Have you been given a supply of any prescribed medication the person needs and information about how they should take it?
  • Have you been given information about their illness or condition?
  • Have you been given information about what to expect when they leave hospital?
  • Do you have a number to contact if there is a medical emergency?

If you are unhappy with any part of the person's care, you can ask to speak to the consultant or nurse in charge of the ward. If you do not feel comfortable doing that, you can contact the Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS).

You need to make sure any care or support is in place and ready to start when the person you care for leaves hospital (or later if the person doesn't want the care to start straightaway).

How can I plan for emergencies?

If you are caring for someone at home it is a good idea to have a plan in case of emergencies, especially if someone relies on you for care or support. Planning ahead can help you feel more in control if there is an emergency. It is a good idea to talk to whoever is involved in arranging care for the person you look after (such as the social worker or care co-ordinator) about what you might do in an emergency. This will help you to feel that you know what to do if there is an emergency. You could also tell other people, such as family or friends, so that they can speak to someone if you aren't able to.

If you have an informal arrangement for emergencies, for example with a family member or friend, it is important that they are aware of this arrangement.

Taking a break from caring responsibilities

Being a carer for someone can be very stressful and tiring. It is important to take some planned time away from your caring role. You might feel you could do with a change and time off, whether it is for an hour, a day or a week. It is important that you are confident that the person you care for is being looked after properly and safely while you are away.

Breaks mean different things to different people. It could mean getting family or friends to sit with the person you look after for a while so you can do something you want to, like:

  • Having some time on your own to go shopping;
  • Going out for a meal with friends; or
  • Going to a football match.

It is also important to realise that you do not always need to leave your home to have a break. It might be that you would prefer to:

  • Enjoy a cup of coffee on your own peacefully;
  • Read; or
  • Use the computer.

It may be that you need more formal support when taking a break such as:

  • Residential or nursing care;
  • Care at a day centre; or
  • A sitting service (this is where someone sits with the person with care needs and looks after them while their carer is not there).

We may be able to provide formal support to give you a break from caring. There are also other organisations that may provide this kind of support. Some of them are charities and voluntary groups and they can be very helpful too.

As a carer, looking after yourself is very important. It is easy to forget about your own health and wellbeing when you are looking after someone else. If you are able to take a break from your caring role, even for a little time each week, this can really help your own stress levels, help tiredness and improve your quality of life.

Taking time to relax
Try to make some time for yourself each day. This might mean making the most of quiet times. You could watch a favourite TV programme, use the computer, read a book, or put your feet up.

Leisure activities
There are lots of things you can do to take time out, from watching TV to taking up t'ai chi. Try to do something you really enjoy. You can find out what is going on in your area by contacting your local activity centre or visiting the Information NOW website.

Professional support
Do not be afraid to get professional support if you need to talk about your caring situation or if you feel that things are getting on top of you. Situations do change. Do not feel that you have to deal with your situation on your own. You can talk to your GP or any other professional involved.

Support groups
Support groups can offer chances for people to share experiences and gain emotional and practical support.

Knowing you are not the only one dealing with certain issues can be very helpful. Carers Centre Newcastle as well as many other organisations can provide information and emotional and practical support to carers in Newcastle upon Tyne.

Support from family and friends
Sometimes family and friends do not realise what is involved in caring for somebody. Consider talking to family and friends about your caring role and how it affects you.

Remember, everyone is different. People cope with things in different ways. Try not to judge yourself.

Further support 

NHS Direct - NHS Direct is a 24 hour, confidential health information and advice service.  It provides advice from qualified nurses as well as information about health conditions and local health services.
Phone: 0845 46 47

Northern Doctors Urgent Care Service - Provides medical services when your GP is closed.  If your GP surgery is closed and you need to see a doctor or nurse urgently please phone 0300 123 4343.
If your dental surgery is closed and you need to see a dentist urgently please phone 0845 608 0324

Patient Information Centre - This is a drop in centre where you can get confidential information about health and related issues.
Phone: 0191 223 2547

Northeast Special Needs Network - Provides support for carers who care for children with disabilities.
Phone: 0191 281 2255

Newcastle Young Carers - Provides support to young carers
Phone: 0191 212 0237

Ring Around Carers - Gives carers the opportunity to phone other carers who may be in a similar situation.  They can share experiences, advice and offer each other support.
Phone: 0191 221 2815

St Johns Ambulance Listening Service - A confidential service that offers information and someone to talk to.  Anyone with a long-term health problem and their carers, can use this service.
Phone: 0191 256 707

Samaritans - A 24 hours a day service for anyone who has feelings of distress or despair.  This is a confidential service.
Phone: 08457 909 090

Newcastle Leisure - Newcastle City Council offer lots of leisure activities across the city.  When you phone ask about the priority cards which can offer discounts of 40-60%.
Phone: 0191 211 6248

Carers Direct - The NHS has developed Carers Direct to offer information, advice and support to carers.
Phone: 0808 802 0202

Carers UK - An organisation led by carers for carers.
Phone: 0808 808 7777

Directgov - A government website that provides easy to access public services and information

Princess Royal Trust for Carers - The largest provider of carers' support services in the UK.
Phone: 0844 800 4361

Page last updated: 19 July, 2013