Supporting someone else is sometimes called caring. You are a carer if you provide (unpaid) support and care for someone who has an illness, disability, mental health problem or addiction. People often assume that carers tend to be women but research shows that around four in ten carers are men.
Being someone’s carer probably only describes part of your relationship with them. You may also be a parent, partner, sister, brother, child, friend or other family member. This relationship can be just as (or more) important to you. You may also have other caring roles as well, for example as a parent to other children.
Supporting others can be mentally and physically exhausting. The time you spend caring can really vary too – some people look after someone for just a short time and others find themselves caring for someone for the long term.
Note: throughout this resource we've used the words 'they' and 'them' to refer to the person you are supporting.
Caring and the benefits system
The benefits system only defines you as a carer if you meet the criteria for Carers Allowance (the main welfare benefit for carers in the UK). But even if you don't meet this criteria, you may still be a carer and need additional support. The Care Act 2014 explains how local authorities should assess you and what your legal rights are.
What might I have to do if I am caring for or supporting someone else?
Caring can mean a range of things. Being patient and giving can feel like part of the normal give and take of any relationship, but sometimes you might find yourself spending a lot more time and effort helping someone else.
You may provide a range of support including:
- giving emotional support
- helping someone seek help for a mental health problem
- helping someone cope with a mental health problem
- cooking and cleaning
- personal care like washing and going to the toilet
- budgeting and looking after finances
- supporting them to live with others in your family (e.g. brothers and sisters)
- helping other family members understand the needs of the person you are caring for
- giving medicine or providing medical care
- going to appointments and advocating on their behalf (helping them express their views and wishes)
- checking they are safe.
Sometimes they may not accept they need care or support from you. This can make things extra hard. Have a look at our info on what to do when they won't get help or they push you away and say things that upset you.
I was completely unaware that what I was doing was a carer role and the effect it was having on me. I didn't think about reaching out for support myself.
My partner/family member has a mental health problem. Am I a carer?
If you look after someone with a mental health problem you might be unsure about whether what you do 'counts' as caring or whether it's just part of day-to-day life. A lot of people associate caring with physical tasks but giving emotional support can also be a big part of caring. Have a look at our page on looking after someone with a mental health problem for more information.
I'm a young person who supports someone else
Lots of young people care for someone else in their family. It can be a tiring and difficult job, especially when you have to fit it in around school or work.
There is a lot of support available to help make things a bit easier for you. The Carers Trust can help you find local services near you.
This information was published in March 2017. We will revise it in 2020.