Carer Benefits Advisory Group minutes: March 2019

Minutes of the meeting of the Carer Benefits Advisory Group, held on 7 March 2019.

Attendees and apologies


  • Ellen Searle, Scottish Government
  • Kate Dickenson, Scottish Government Analyst
  • Matthew Duff, Scottish Government
  • Peggy Winford, Scottish Government
  • Gordon Dodds, Scottish Government
  • Paul Traynor, Carers Trust
  • Fiona Collie, Carers Scotland
  • Ruari Sutherland, Scottish Government
  • Angela Toal, CPAG
  • David Ward, Scottish Government
  • Hazel Stewart, Scottish Government


  • Jane Kellock, Social Work Scotland
  • Suzanne Munday, MECOPP
  • Roisin Connolly, Connecting Carers
  • Shirley Morris, VOCAL
  • Alison MacLeod, Health and Social Care Partnership
  • Emma MacSween, Health and Social Care Partnership
  • Clare Thomas, COSLA

Items and actions

Updates and review actions

1. The chair thanked the group for their attendance and informed members that previous meeting minutes had been agreed and were available on the Scottish Government (SG) website.

2. It was noted that an updates paper had been circulated before the meeting which included the details of the content and actions from the previous meeting. The group agreed that they found this useful.

3. The group discussed the actions from the previous meeting and agreed that they had been completed. There was agreement to hold meetings every six months with workshops in between with the view that this allows for more people involved in policy making to be included. The group agreed that this meeting frequency generally worked.

Carers Strategic Policy Statement

4. A representative from SG Carers Policy outlined the purpose, key messages and focus of the Carers Strategic Policy Statement. It was explained that the statement’s primary objective is to articulate the SG position on supporting carers, to express leadership and to consolidate ongoing activity in multiple areas. Details were provided to the group in a briefing paper:

  • the document is short term and high level. It aims to link areas working on carer policy rather than attempting to announce something new
  • a framework is in progress but this is subject to change. It was explained that some tweaking and flexibility is feasible
  • there will be an opportunity to contribute to a formal public consultation on the document later this year
  • various stakeholder groups have been already consulted as part of development of the document
  • the aim is to finalise the statement, with Ministerial approval, by early 2020

5. The group were asked for their input, thoughts on any gaps that may exist and if there were other groups that it would be useful to engage with:

  • the importance of linking up with teams working on young carer support was emphasised. Examples were given of where young carer engagement had already taken place
  • there was discussion around older carers, income maximisation and the wider package of support for older carers. The point was made that emphasis tends to be on the specific needs of young carers. The group were informed that the working group intended to speak to the Older People’s Development Group and were attempting to be as inclusive as possible, whilst remaining concise

6. A member asked about the lifespan of the document. The group were informed that there was not a specific timeline yet although this could form part of the consultation. The focus so far has been on the current Carers Act Implementation Plan which runs until 2021.

7. The question of who the document is aimed at was raised. It was explained that it should primarily be valuable for statutory and third sector organisations (local and national) and independent sector partners working with carers to inform their strategic planning and policy development. We want to make it accessible to as wide an audience as possible, however the importance of using accessible language was emphasised.

8. It was acknowledged that in providing financial support to carers, SG needs to recognise and operate around social security benefits which remain reserved to the UK Government.

9. The group were asked about the usefulness of the work and encouraged to raise any issues:

  • a member raised that disconnection, real or perceived, has previously existed between policy areas, therefore this piece of work will be a valuable tool. Stakeholders have been enthused by statement because of this
  • a point was made that specific impact of policy has been difficult to identify and this piece of work could make it easier for evaluation purposes

10. There was discussion over the role of the document on the community front line. There was agreement that people should be informed about a full range of available benefits and grants when they come into contact with the system. The group agreed that, because of this need, it is vital to raise awareness of what people are entitled to and make the signposting process simpler.

11. The issue was raised of joining up welfare advice and Social Security Scotland (SSS) local delivery leads to enable people to access what they are entitled to more widely. There was recognition that the document will not hold significant operational answers as it was important to get balance between usefulness and accessibility.


• The group are invited to contribute inputs to the formation of the Carers Strategic Policy Statement through the public consultation later this year.

Carer’s Allowance Supplement (CAS) evaluation approach

12. A SG Social Security Analyst presented the CAS evaluation approach, which uses a logic model, to the group:

  • the aims of the evaluation were outlined. It was explained that it was guided by the need to improve outcomes for carers and recognise carers’ contribution
  • during the presentation, it was explained that the CAS logic model details outputs (the additional money provided), outcomes (carers receive additional financial support, feel recognised for their role and have been treated with dignity and respect) and impacts (the contribution to improved financial and health and wellbeing outcomes)
  • the group were informed that the Management Information used for the evaluation is not expected to collect much equality data
  • it was also noted that the evaluation is likely to use snowballing (sampling collected through contractor from local organisations)

13. There was discussion over the timing of capturing outcomes:

  • because the sense of recognition from carers is likely to happen as the CAS payment is received, the most powerful impact is likely to be captured at this point
  • it was also raised that it may be useful to compare this initial reaction to the feeling three months after payment
  • it was agreed that it is important to capture outcomes at the time of payment in order to compare with longer term impact. It will be useful to compare impact and provide learning over how to promote the recognition of carers over a longer period of time
  • ihe group discussed how to maintain the momentum of recognising carers which may initially spike when payment is first paid. The possibility was raised of varying messages to ensure that carers were not simply hearing the same message

14. The possibility was raised of recipients not fully understanding the payment, why they were receiving it or the value of the payment. It was explained that Experience Panels will talk to CAS recipients to ask if they know about CAS and why they are receiving it in order to address the point of continuous and future communication. The group were informed that SSS’s All Client Survey (which will be sent to all CAS clients) aims to capture whether the principles of dignity and respect are successfully being transmitted to recipients.

15. A question was asked on the methods of evaluation. The answer outlined how most information will come through commissioned research such as focus groups due to the limits on survey data and management information. A member suggested it may be worth discussing with SG analysts who have been working on the evaluation of carer’s policy with Minority Ethnic Carers of People Project (MECOPP). There was agreement that this could lead to potential learning and that previous discussions with MECOPP have been useful.

16. The group raised the issue of which groups of carers would be captured by any evaluation. The issue was also raised of establishing a baseline in order to measure the potential impact of CAS. It was explained that a baseline cannot be established because there has been no prior evaluation of Carer’s Allowance (CA) and CAS is a new benefit. However it was explained that establishing comparison between long-term carers and new carers could be done through screening out those not new to CAS to understand any positive impact on new recipients particularly. The group were informed that timelines were yet to be decided

17. It was noted that it would be interesting to review practices around translation and question whether they are most effective.


  • contact SG analysts and MECOPP to access shared data
  • take into account the issue of when to collect data
  • think about how to retain momentum around valuing and recognising carers after multiple payments

Additional payment for those caring for more than one disabled child

18. A representative from the SG Carer Benefits Policy team updated the group on the progress of the policy to make an additional payment to people in receipt of CA who are caring for more than one disabled child. The SG has committed to delivering this by the end of this parliamentary term.

19. The group were updated on a workshop of people caring for more than one disabled child that took place on 18 February. The group were informed that the workshop allowed the opportunity to discuss the policy and the additional demands on these carers. The feedback of the workshops was summarised:

  • it was reported that any additional amount is welcome. Stakeholder and user engagement feedback is that people want enough money to make a significant impact whilst being sustainable
  • it was noted that there are two different approaches to payment frequencies: small frequent payments or a lump sum payment. Stakeholders agree that there are pros and cons to both approaches
  • it was reported that fraud and error discussed but the need for this not to be a focus and for policy to be person centred was noted 

20. The findings of the workshops and learning from previous research panels will feed into policy design. Engagement with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is ongoing to ascertain what data can be used.

21. The group were informed that a survey of carers that care for more than one disabled child was to be disseminated to organisations to gain further perspective from individuals in the next months. It was emphasised that this needs to be kept manageable and focus on what kind of questions should we be asking rather than be a deep dive. It was explained that the survey will be carefully targeted rather than aimed at creating a significant set of statistics.

22. The issue was raised of questions being skewed by parents and/or carers of more than one adult child and of potential confusion over the opening up to a wider target such as carers of more than one disabled person. The issue of terminology was raised around carers of more than one disabled child when in fact it is more accurate to say carers receiving CA and caring for more than one disabled child. This was taken on board and will be reflected back to communications.

23. There was a suggestion of approaching organisations that work with disabled children rather than just caring groups.

24. The group asked if it would be helpful for stakeholders to see more of the policy making and design process to which there was general agreement.

25. A member raised the issue of the timeline of payments and the potential of streamlining cases of families making multiple claims.


  • SG to consider which options (lump sum or regular payments) will serve carers best
  • a policy working group to be established on carers for more than one disabled child

Update from service design

26. A representative from Service Design reported that the aim is to build something that is as accessible as possible, and that there is a possibility of joining up with other applications. However, a whole programme of benefits is to be delivered so there are some constraints. The group were informed that SG have joint controllership of CA information held by DWP.

27. It was noted that, from service design perspective, frequent payments create issues regarding breaks from caring or receipt of CA which make payment amounts complicated.

28. It was also noted that policy makers are encouraged by service design to work from what is desirable towards constraints rather than the other way round.


  • SG will continue to engage with users and stakeholders
  • timescales for service design are to be finalised


29. The groupdiscussed what went well in the meeting, and what could have gone better:

  • a member raised the need to encourage organisations to send substitutes if unable to attend
  • it was raised that it would be useful for someone from SSS local delivery team, from an agency perspective, to attend.
  • it was noted and widely agreed that the Carer Benefit update, circulated before the meeting, was useful
  • the group is generally content with general group approach.
  • invite someone from SSS local delivery team to group
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