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Help with your pension

If you have given up work to care for someone, your State Pension may not be your first concern. However, if your working life is interrupted because your paid job ends, it can have a detrimental impact on how much State Pension you receive in the future.

This information applies to people living in England, Wales, Scotland & Northern Ireland.

Not everybody automatically qualifies for a full basic State Pension on reaching retirement age. The amount of State Pension you get usually depends on how many qualifying years of National Insurance (NI) you have built up over the years. If you miss paying these because you have taken time out of paid work, then you may lose out. 

The good news is that if your employment ends because you are caring for someone who is disabled, ill or frail, then the state can credit your NI contributions for you. However, this isn't automatic and only happens if you claim the right benefits and take the right action.

The new State Pension has now replaced the previous State Pension. The new State Pension came into effect on the 6th April 2016 and means that anyone who reaches state pension age after this date will claim the new State Pension. Anyone who reached state pension age before 6th April 2016 (including those who have deferred claiming their pension) will stay on the ‘old system’ ie they will keep the State Pension they already have. No one will be transferred on to the new State Pension, and the old style State Pension will still be uprated each year in the same way as now.

How carers qualify for a State Pension

How much State Pension might I get? 

There are now two set of rules for working out how much State Pension you will be entitled to.

Anyone reaching State Pension age on or after 6th April 2016 will qualify for the new State Pension, sometimes called the ‘flat rate pension’. So women born on or after 6th April 1953 and men born on or after 6th April 1951 will get the new State Pension.

The new State Pension has been set at a maximum of £185.15 a week (2022/23 rate).

When you claim your State Pension the government will carry out two calculations to work out how much pension you will get.

  • firstly they will work out how much State Pension you would have got under the 'old rules', based on your National Insurance (NI) contributions and NI credits before 6th April 2016 – this is called the ‘starting amount’
  • secondly they will work out how much State Pension you would have got had the new State Pension rules been in place since the start of your working life

You will get the higher of the two amounts, even if it is higher than the maximum of £185.15 a week.

If your ‘starting amount’ is lower than the maximum amount of the new State Pension, and you are still paying NI contributions or getting NI credits, then your contributions can be combined, but only up to the maximum amount of the new State Pension.

What were the 'old rules' for qualifying for a State Pension?

People reaching state pension age before 6th April 2016 (both women and men) needed 30 qualifying years of NI contributions or NI credits to receive the full basic State Pension. Those with less than 30 qualifying years get a proportionate amount.

Many people receive more than the basic State Pension, because the 'old rules' included an Additional State Pension (previously known as SERPS or the Second State Pension). It is paid to people who have paid over a certain level of NI contributions per year, or who have received the right benefits, or who have had their contributions paid for them.

What are the 'new rules' for qualifying for a State Pension?

To get the maximum amount of £185.15 a week, you must have paid NI contributions or had NI credits for 35 years. Anyone with less than 10 years will get nothing. Those with between 10 and 34 years of NI contributions or NI credits will get a proportionate amount of the maximum new State Pension.

Unlike under the 'old rules' the new State Pension does not have any additional amounts.

How much NI do I need to have paid each year for it to count towards my State Pension?

In each tax year there is a minimum amount or ‘lower earnings limit’ that you have to be earning in order to make the right amount of NI contributions. The lower earnings limit is £123 per week or £533 per month (2022/23 rate), so for a whole tax year this is £123 x 52 weeks = £6,396.  If you have earned at least the required amount in any year, that year will usually be a qualifying year and will count towards the total qualifying years needed. 

What if carers don’t pay NI because they are not earning?

Certain people are ‘credited’ with NI contributions. This means that a contribution is put on their record equal to the lower earnings limit in each week that they fulfil certain conditions or receive certain benefits, including:

This means if you get one of these benefits you do not need to take any action to protect your pension. It is done automatically.

What happens if you have not been in receipt of earnings or benefits?

Many carers in this situation can claim something called Carer's Credit. This will protect your right to a State Pension even if you are not working or claiming benefits. See the Carer's Credit section for further information.

Warning signs that you may have gaps in your NI record

  • if you have had breaks in paid employment that are not totally covered by benefits
  • if you have spent time caring without realising you were entitled to benefits
  • if you have had periods on low level earnings ie, paid below the level at which you pay NI contributions
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Five steps to maximise your State Pension

Step 1: Make sure you receive all the relevant benefits you are entitled to - email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for a benefit check.

Step 2: If you are not paying NI contributions through employment, and are not receiving benefits which will give you NI credits, check whether you can claim Carer's Credit (see the Carer's Credit section for further information).

Step 3: Check your NI record either online, by contacting the NI Helpline on 0300 200 3500 (textphone: 0300 200 3519) or by writing to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) (you can see the address here).

Step 4: Ask for a State Pension forecast either online, by contacting the Future Pension Centre on 0800 731 0175 (textphone: 0800 731 0176) or by writing to the Future Pension Centre (you can download the form and see the address here).

Step 5: Look into what else you could be doing for your State Pension - contact the Pensions Advisory Service for impartial advice.

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Saving for your pension – Carer's Credit

Carer's Credit is a way of protecting your pension rights if you are caring for someone, but are not paying National Insurance (NI) contributions through paid work and are unable to claim Carer's Allowance. If you already get Carer's Allowance, you do not need to claim Carer's Credit as your pension is already protected. Read more.

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