Benefits for carers

Cost of living crisis: find out what help is available

Carers and social security

Unpaid carers provide vital support to the people they care for and to Scotland as a whole. Caring can be a rewarding and positive experience for both the carer and the cared-for person. However, caring is also associated with a higher risk of poverty, poor mental wellbeing and physical health, and can restrict social, education and employment opportunities.

We want to help carers protect their health and wellbeing, so they can continue to care if they wish, and have a life alongside caring. Carer benefits, while not a payment for care, can help achieve this. We are committed to improving support for carers with our social security powers.

Carer’s Allowance Supplement

Scottish Ministers felt that it was unfair that Carer’s Allowance was the lowest of all working age benefits. Our first change when the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018 was passed was to introduce the Carer's Allowance Supplement.

Carer’s Allowance Supplement increases Carer's Allowance by 13%. Eligible carers get two payments a year, in June and December. Carer’s Allowance Supplement payments were £231.40 in 2021 and will be £237.90 in 2022. Over £188 million has been invested in the Supplement since 2018, providing extra support for more than 126,000 carers.

Coronavirus Carer's Allowance Supplement

We know that the coronavirus pandemic put extra pressure on Scotland’s unpaid carers on top of the challenges they already face. To support carers with the impacts of the pandemic, we paid an extra Coronavirus Carer’s Allowance Supplement in June 2020 to support carers, and another extra Coronavirus payment in December 2021, doubling the Carer's Allowance Supplement payments carers received in these months.

Young Carer Grant

In October 2019, Social Security Scotland began accepting applications for Young Carer Grant, a brand new benefit to support young people aged 16, 17 and 18. The first of its kind in the UK, Young Carer Grant supports young people with a payment of over £300 which can be applied for annually. Young people can spend it how they choose to help them access life opportunities which are the norm for many of their peers.

Our Young Carer Grant Interim Evaluation shows that Young Carer Grant has made a positive impact on carers’ mental wellbeing, mainly by reducing stress and increasing confidence. The issues highlighted in the evaluation are currently being considered as part of on-going policy development. 

Young carers who were eligible for the Young Carer Grant but unable to apply before their 19th birthday due to the disruption caused by COVID-19 can still apply, with their application being considered as though made on time.

By the 31 October 2021 the Scottish Government had approved over 4,700 applications, investing over £1.4 million into young carers. 

Scottish Carer's Assistance

We are working to develop our replacement benefit for Carer’s Allowance in Scotland. We are calling this ‘Scottish Carer’s Assistance’ for now. Our consultation on how our new benefit could be different to Carer’s Allowance closed on 23 May 2022. You can read the consultation responses we received on the Scottish Carer's Assistance consultation page.

All responses are currently being analysed and considered and will inform the changes we will make through Scottish Carer's Assistance. We plan to publish our response to the consultation in Autumn 2022.

We are proposing a number of improvements from launch, including:

  • providing a better service for carers, looking at how we could make links to wider support, for example in areas such as social care, employability, education and bereavement
  • support for carers when the person they care for is challenging a change to their disability benefits and receiving short-term assistance.

But we know how important it is to carers that when we introduce our new benefit, we don’t do anything that would risk their current support. We also don’t want to have a ‘two tier system’ – where people getting Carer’s Allowance in Scotland are treated differently from those getting Scottish Carer’s Assistance.

So we plan to keep the eligibility criteria for Scottish Carer’s Assistance mostly the same as for Carer’s Allowance when we first launch.

Once we have started paying our new benefit, and have transferred benefits for people getting Carer’s Allowance so all carers are getting Scottish Carer’s Assistance instead, we can make more changes.

We have heard about a number of things that carers and support organisations would like to change when we introduce Scottish Carer’s Assistance. We worked with carers and support organisations to look at a number of different possible changes, using a process called a Multi Criteria Analysis process Following this, we identified five key changes we are proposing to make as a priority:

  • removing education restrictions so carers can study full-time and get Scottish Carer’s Assistance
  • increasing the length of time that Scottish Carer’s Assistance will be paid after the death of a cared for person, from eight to 12 weeks
  • increasing the length of time that Scottish Carer's Assistance will be paid when a cared for adult goes into hospital or residential care, from four to 12 weeks
  • increasing the amount carers can earn and still get Scottish Carer’s Assistance
  • allowing carers to add together hours spent caring for more than one person to reach the 35 hours a week caring requirement for Scottish Carer’s Assistance

We have provided more information in the supporting documents section of the Scottish Carer's Assistance consultation This provides details of the process, including the full list of options which were included and the criteria used to assess the options. The options list was based on a range of work with carers and support organisations, different areas of government policy, and interviews with members of our Experience Panels.

These changes would help carers access opportunities outside of caring where they wish to, provide more financial stability, and better recognise different caring situations than the current benefit.

Carer’s Additional Person Payment

We are committed to providing extra support through Scottish Carer’s Assistance to carers who are receiving the benefit and caring for more than one person who is getting a disability benefit. We are proposing to make an extra payment of £10 per week, which we are calling ‘Carer’s Additional Person Payment’ for now.

This is because we recognise that caring for more than one person has additional impacts on carers in terms of their health and wellbeing, and no extra support is currently available through Carer’s Allowance. The aim of the payment will be to support carers’ health and wellbeing, in recognition of the impact of these multiple caring roles.

Making sure benefits work

We speak directly to carers, for example through our Experience Panels, as we develop benefits to help us make changes that genuinely improve carers’ lives. Feedback from carers helps us understand if changes, once implemented, are making a difference, alongside other evidence such as management information and survey data

Organisations that work with carers and wider experts who also play an important role, include:

It is important to us that carer benefits reach everyone who is entitled to them. We are working to improve benefit uptake and also carry out Equalities Impact Assessments for each benefit to identify areas where extra activity is needed. 

We increase carer benefits each year in line with inflation so that they keep their value as prices rise.

Wider support for carers

The improvements we have made and are proposing to make to carer benefits are on top of a range of wider support we provide for carers including through the Carers (Scotland) Act. This gives all carers the right to a personalised plan to identify what is important to them and the right to support which meets their eligible needs. Every local authority must also have an information and advice service for carers, covering topics including income maximisation and carer benefits. 

Our work to develop Scottish Carer’s Assistance is also linked to wider work which is ongoing to improve support for carers and the people they care for, including through the development of a National Care Service.

Scottish Carer's Assistance – Multi Criteria Analysis Process

We have heard about a number of things that carers and support organisations would like to change when we introduce Scottish Carer’s Assistance. So an approach called a Multi Criteria Analysis (MCA) was used to help to prioritise the changes which could be made. This is because we wanted to ensure that a wide range of factors were considered to assess the options for Scottish Carer’s Assistance.

Scottish Carer’s Assistance – draft impact assessments

In our work to devlop policy for Scottish Carer’s Assistance we have considered how the decisions we make could affect different people and groups differently – using research and evidence we already have and listening to carers and organisations who support them to find out more. 

It is important that our benefits are designed and developed in a way that works for all of Scotland’s carers and the people and organisations that support them. We also want to do what we can to improve equality through Scottish Carer’s Assistance and avoid any negative impacts on any people, groups, communities or businesses.

We have provided some information below from our work on impact assessments for Scottish Carer’s Assistance. We will publish more information here as we continue this work.

Equality Impact Assessment

This means thinking about how a policy could affect different equality groups differently when it is being developed, as well as thinking about how any proposed changes could be used to improve equality. In developing the proposals in our consultation we looked at equality information about unpaid carers to identify where changes could affect some groups more than others, either positively or negatively, and where there are opportunities to make changes which would improve equality (for example, we know that the majority of unpaid carers are women so changes we make could help women in particular).

We recognise there are areas where we lack equality information. For Carer’s Allowance, only information on gender and age is gathered. In line with our practice across all devolved benefits, we will collect information on all the main equality groups for Scottish Carer’s Assistance. This will help us understand the reach of the benefit, different experiences of the benefit, and where we need to take further proactive action. We will also use targeted events as part of the consultation to improve our understanding needs of particular groups where we lack sufficient information, such as LGBQT+ and faith communities.

Island Communities Impact Assessment

This is about testing any new policy, strategy or service which is likely to have an effect on an island community which is significantly different from the effect on other communities.

There are several factors which impact on island residents’ daily lives compared to people who live on the Scottish mainland. Citizens Advice Scotland has identified issues with the power grid, utilities, digital and travel as key barriers for people in accessible rural, remote rural and remote small towns, and we know that many costs can be higher on average (PDF). A lack of accessible employment, education and leisure opportunities can be made more difficult for someone with mobility issues and those who care for them, especially when transport options are limited.

We have also heard that there are potential cultural barriers for island residents applying for Scottish Carer's Assistance, due to the close-knit nature of island communities - some people may be reluctant to come forward for support from Scottish Carer’s Assistance due to not wishing to disclose disability or caring status in the community.

Fairer Scotland duty

This is about looking at how the decisions we make about future policy for Scottish Carer’s Assistance can help to reduce the challenges that people can face as a result of ‘socio-economic disadvantage’ – which can be things such as having a low income, not having access to basic goods or services, or having a background which gives them less advantages.

In making decisions about the proposed changes to Scottish Carer’s Assistance we looked at which groups of carers would be most affected and which changes were likely to target lowest income carers or carers at greater risk of poverty. We already know that households with a disabled person are more likely to be in poverty, and these families, targeted by our Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan.

Children’s Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessment

The Scottish Government wants to make Scotland the best place in the world for a child to grow up. Recognising, respecting and promoting the rights of children and young people is essential to achieving this. We are taking steps to ensure that children experience their rights, as determined by the United Nations Convention on Rights of the Child. A Children’s Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessment helps ensure that our policies, measures and legislation protect and promote the wellbeing of children and young people. A child is defined as anyone under the age of 18 as per the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Scottish Carer's Assistance will be available to carers aged 16 and over so we would expect the primary impacts of Scottish Carer's Assistance to be on young people aged 16 and over. We would also expect to see an indirect positive impact for children and young people who are cared for by someone in receipt of Scottish Carer's Assistance or living with someone who receives Scottish Carer's Assistance.

Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment

This is used to analyse the cost and benefits to businesses and the third sector of any proposed legislation or regulation, with the goal of using evidence to identify the proposal that best achieves policy objectives while minimising costs and burdens as much as possible.

We have considered the potential business and third sector impacts of introducing Scottish Carer’s Assistance. Creating a new benefit, widening eligibility, and changing some elements of how the benefit works, is likely to mainly affect carer support services and welfare advice agencies, as clients adapt to the new Social Security Scotland system and eligibility requirements, and consider applying for the new support. We will work with stakeholders from a range of organisations to ensure that we provide information and support in advance of Scottish Carer’s Assistance launch and future changes in order to reduce these impacts.

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