Carer Benefits Advisory Group minutes: February 2016

Minutes for the meeting of the Carer Benefits Advisory Group on 29 February 2016.

Attendees and apologies


  • Beth Hall, COSLA
  • Fiona Collie, Carers Scotland
  • Heather Noller, Carers Trust
  • Paul Traynor, Young Adult Carers Policy and Campaigns Officer, Carers Trust
  • Mark Knight, DWP Policy – agenda item 6 only via telephone link
  • Peggy Winford, Carers Policy, Scottish Government
  • Ellen Searle, Social Security Policy and Delivery, Scottish Government (Chair)
  • Hazel Bartels, Social Security Policy and Delivery, Scottish Government
  • Dawn Abell, Social Security Policy and Delivery, Scottish Government
  • Liz Davidson, Social Security Policy and Delivery, Scottish Government
  • David Toner, Communities Analysis, Scottish Government
  • Mel Giarchi, Communities Analysis, Scottish Government
  • Colin Brown, Scottish Government, Legal Division – agenda item 6 only
  • Chris Boyland, Scottish Government – agenda item 6 only


  • Ian McPhee, Stirling Carers Centre
  • James Marshall, Stirling Carers Centre

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

1. The chair welcomed everyone to the meeting. She introduced Dawn Abell and Liz Davidson to the group, both of whom had recently joined the policy team for carer’s benefit, and Scottish Government analyst David Toner who was leading on scenario planning across all of the benefits to be devolved.

Minutes of previous meeting on 19 November 2016

2. The minutes and remit were agreed with no changes. All action points had been completed except for the distribution of the analytical paper which had been held back until it was further developed.

Stakeholder and users feedback

2. Scottish Government analysts gave a presentation which mapped out the landscape of support and analysis of consultation. Around 1800 pieces of feedback were received from focus groups, wider events, Fairer Scotland and others. All feedback was put into the data bank, including views on carer’s allowance benefit and what stakeholders would like to be reviewed as part of developing a new Scottish carer’s benefit.

3. The main areas identified by stakeholders are set out below (not in order of preference/ priority).

Main areas considered positive

  • Self-directed support
  • Some schemes (Carer Positive, Carers card scheme, Carer helpline)
  • Current carer’s allowance is well administered
  • The allowance is ring-fenced for the carer

Main areas considered negative

  • Inadequate financial provision, unfair when compared to other benefits
  • Current earnings threshold was too low
  • The 35 hours caring rule was too high
  • Eligibility criteria too prescriptive
  • Not equitable for different carers (students, pensioners, young carers)

Main suggestions for change

  • Additional element for caring for more than one person
  • Should link into other benefits
  • Carer’s hours of 35 per week and the study restrictions should be reviewed
  • Age eligibility needs reviewed
  • Payment should be increased
  • Earning threshold should be increased
  • Disregard carer’s benefit for eligibility to other means tested benefits

4. Members agreed with the general findings. In addition, they highlighted that individuals tended to take a more holistic view of the carer support and benefits they received and did not differentiate between was provided by the third sector, local or national government. Experience of self-directed support varied across the country.

Outcomes – Paper CBAG 1/2016

5. Policy officials introduced this paper. She said that these were draft outcomes and members views and comments were welcomed. There would also be future opportunities to input. She highlighted three key points. Firstly, that the draft outcomes were developed taking account of the various carers, health, disability and social security policies and strategies and, importantly, the views of carers and carer organisations. Secondly, that the wide approach had resulted in some draft outcomes which were benefit specific and others which were carer focused. This was inevitable as the two areas were intrinsically linked. The third point she highlighted was that the draft outcomes were separated into early priorities and medium-longer term aims, with the former contributing to the latter. She emphasised that how the outcomes were measured would be key as we move forward. Dawn asked members if they had any questions before they moved into groups to discuss the outcomes in detail. Clarification was sought on the timeframe and it was explained that the early priorities were for 2020 and the longer term was 2040.

6. A summary of the discussions is at Annex A. Action: SG to circulate revised draft to members.

Scenario Planning

7. Scottish Government analysts facilitated the two scenario planning exercises. Members were asked to generate future scenarios for carers that would delivered the desired outcomes discussed earlier. They also explored the roadmap that was required to achieve those scenarios and the changes to make it happen.

8. Four key scenarios were identified and are summarised at Annex B.


9. Members were asked to prioritise the scenarios according to desirability, feasibility and affordability. The group was clear that the do nothing/minimal change was the least desirable, although it was the most affordable. A single point, one stop shop or carers “careforce” was the most desirable, although it was recognised that the one-stop shop might be least affordable. The minimal change option was seen as most feasible and the assets based approach was seen as least feasible. The carers “careforce” option divided option on both feasibility and affordability.



10. Scottish Government solicitors gave a presentation on how legislation was made for Scotland, referencing the social security bill that Ministers had committed to introducing in the Parliamentary session 2016/17, as well as the existing carer’s allowance legislation. A copy of the presentation is attached at Annex C.


11. Scottish Government officials provided a briefing on the fiscal framework which was published on 25 February and how to consider the cost of the options for carer’s allowance in the light of the financial situation in Scotland.

12. For welfare there were two elements: how much money was received in respect of devolved benefits and how much was received to implement and administer the benefits.

13. With the block grant adjustment formula in year one Scotland would receive the same amount that was paid out in benefits the previous year and thereafter it would be indexed ‘per capita’.

14. In addition, a one-off of transfer of £200 million would be made to support the implementation of all the powers in the forthcoming Scotland Act 2016, and there would also be a baselined and indexed addition to the block grant of £66 million to support the ongoing administration of these powers. Of all the new powers, social security was likely to have the largest implementation and administration costs. Decisions on how to allocate this funding would be made as part of the normal spending review process.

15. The Fiscal Framework was considered a good settlement but budgets remain constrained, meaning any additional spend on benefits was likely to require budget reprioritisation. It was therefore important to ensure the value for money of any new proposals was well understood.

Interactions with Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)

16. DWP policy officials joined the group for this session via phone link up. He said that over the past year he had found the discussions with the Scottish Government on carer’s allowance very useful. There was an opportunity now for Scotland to consider how carer’s allowance, which was introduced in 1976, could be updated for the 21st century. Mark highlighted a number of issues that it might be useful for the Scottish Government to consider. These are listed below.

  • Potential to affect reserved benefits and passporting to other means tested benefits e.g. Income Support. If Carers Allowance was to be increased in Scotland, DWP would need to put a system in place so this did not reduce Income Support payments.

  • Any change to current criteria for disability benefits or carers’ benefits could affect the number of people claiming and cause either a reduction or increase to the current caseload.

  • Carer’s allowance was administered centrally for the whole of Great Britain in Preston. This had contributed to a well administered benefit with staff who were dedicated with wealth of expertise. Any changes would affect staffing levels, knowledge base etc.

  • Cross border issues would need to be considered as someone in Berwick upon Tweed could be the carer for someone who claims Personal Independence Payment (PIP) in Scotland and vice versa.

  • Other issues that would need to be looked at are fraud, data exchange, linking rules, exportability of the benefit (ie which government would then be responsible for payment), linking rules to other benefits, overlapping benefit rules.

  • DWP currently received real time information on earnings from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). Checks were then carried out on working carers to ensure earnings have been correctly reported.

17. From data analysis the take up rate for carer’s allowance was very high. There had been a 7.1% increase per year in carer’s allowance over the last 5 years. In Scotland around 25,000 carers also receive Income Support in addition to carer’s allowance. There are around 20,000 pension credit carers.

18. Costs for decision making and appeals were very high and a simplification of the process with simpler decisions might help to reduce it.

Carer Benefit Summary Project Plan – Paper CBAG 2/2016

19. Due to time constraints this paper was not discussed. Members are asked to provide any written comments after the meeting. (

Round-up and Any Other Business

20. The chair thanked everyone for their contribution and hard work throughout the day. She would ensure that those who had to leave early would be updated and the minutes would be written up in more detail than usual given that some members had had to leave early/ been unable to attend Given the amount of material generated, policy officials would consider this after the next meeting and propose next steps thereafter.

21. She raised three issues under Any Other Business:

  • Membership of the group. Although it was originally envisaged to keep the group fairly tight, members agreed that it would be useful to expand membership to ensure the group was always of a sufficient size for discussion. Action: Scottish Government to suggest additional members to the Group.

  • Short-life working groups. Members agreed that it would be useful to set up short-life working groups and that organisations outwith the Advisory Group could be co-opted to them. Action: Scottish Government to send out proposals and seek volunteers.

  • Exchanging ideas and views. Members agreed it would be useful to set up a forum for exchanging ideas between the group electronically. Yammer was suggested. Action: Scottish Government to explore the feasibility of Yammer and set it up if possible

Date of next meeting

22. The next meeting would be held in May 2016 following the Scottish elections. [Post note meeting – further to consideration of the material, it was proposed that a further meeting be held in advance of the elections to consider the detail of the scenarios]


Email: Ellen Searle

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