From April 2010, you can protect your NI contributions record while being a carer by claiming national insurance credits for parents and carers (who do not get Carer’s Allowance). Note that there is now a credit for caring for children under 12, which can be claimed by family members other than the child’s parents.
For details, go to National Insurance Credits on GOV.UK.
From 1978/79 to 2009/10, a different scheme, Home Responsibilities Protection, helped parents and carers (who did not get Carer’s Allowance) protect their State Pension only. From April 2002, some carers could build up their additional state pension as well as the basic pension.
Some people had to apply for HPR, so you may have to apply for HPR for past years. Time limits apply to claiming.
For details, go to Home Responsibilities Protection on GOV.UK.
To check your contribution record, you can ask for a State Pension forecast – ring the State Pension Forecasting Team on 0845 300 0168.