Estimates from the charity Carers UK suggest that about £660m worth of Carer's Allowance goes unclaimed each year1. Carers are often isolated, unsupported and unaware of their rights and entitlements.
Imelda Redmond, chief executive of Carers UK, said:
'Around 2.3 million people become carers every year. Many people don't see themselves as carers, but as mothers, sons, partners and friends and may not know that they are entitled to help as carers3. That's why Carers UK and British Gas are working together on Carers' Rights Day - to tell as many carers as possible about the support they can get.
Ms Redmond added: 'We rely heavily on the support provided by carers, which has been valued at a staggering £57bn per year. There are clear moral and economic arguments to make sure carers know about the support that is available.'
Mark Clare, deputy chief executive of Centrica plc and managing director of British Gas, said:
'British Gas was one of the first companies to introduce a carer-friendly employment policy and that model has been used as an example of best practice throughout the country.
'We are pleased to continue our support for Carers UK and be a partner in this year's Carers' Rights Day.'
Getting the right support at the right time is vital for carers and their families. Over time, the lack of financial support and practical help can take its toll on carers. One survey found carers cutting back on food and essential bills such as heating and light to make end s meet. Other research has revealed that carers are more likely to suffer both physical and mental health problems if they do not get sufficient support.
In the last year in England, following a campaign by Carers UK, carers have been given new rights ensuring that they are fully consulted and involved when the person they look after is discharged from hospital. New benefit rates have also been introduced. Carers are also entitled to support from social services and those on low incomes may qualify for benefits such as Income Support.
Local activities range from benefits shops organised by Dudley MBC social services to the launch of a Chinese Carers' Register by the Chinese National Healthy Living Centre in Soho, London. Many local groups have information stalls and displays in their local town centres, in libraries, hospitals and GPs surgeries.
A guide for carers who want information about their entitlements is available here.
1.Estimates suggest that 40-60% of disability benefits go unclaimed. Since entitlement to carers' benefits are dependent on disability benefits, at least 40% of those entitled to Carer's Allowance may not be claiming it. This means that across the UK carers could be missing out on £660m every year.
2.British Gas is a partner in Carers Rights Day and has been a long term supporter of Carers UK. British Gas was one of the first national companies to introduce a carer-friendly employment policy for staff and the company is a partner in the Action for Carers and Employment project led by Carers UK.
3.In a Carers UK survey, half of the carers providing substantial care said they took longer than two years to realise that they were a carer. A carer is defined in legislation as someone who provides unpaid care to a relative, partner or friend.
4.Carers UK is an organisation of carers, run by carers, for carers.