Carer Benefits Advisory Group minutes: November 2015

Minutes for the meeting of the Carer Benefits Advisory Group on 19 November 2015.

Attendees and apologies


  • Beth Hall, COSLA
  • Mel Giarchi, Communities Analysis, Scottish Government
  • Fiona Collie, Carers Scotland
  • Heather Noller, Carers Trust
  • Paul Traynor, Young Adult Carers Policy and Campaigns Officer at Carers Trust * Scotland
  • Ian McPhee, Stirling Carers Centre
  • James Marshall, Stirling Carers Centre
  • 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
  • Daniel Paterson, Social Security Policy and Delivery, Scottish Government (secretariat)

Items and actions

Introductions and agenda

1. There were no apologies. The agenda was agreed, and discussed as distributed.

Group remit and membership (Paper 1)

It was noted that

2. The Group will act in an advisory capacity for Scottish Government (SG) policy on the Scottish carer benefit. This will incorporate inputting on mechanisms to generate and assess options.

3. As well as supporting policy development itself, there was good potential for the membership to inform the content of and extend the reach of SG communications.

4. Chatham House rules will be implemented to enable creative discussion. As the Group discussions will inform SG policy development, minutes will not be published but information on the work of the Group and its membership will be available on the SG website.

5. DWP are considering whether the Carer's Allowance poilcy lead will join the Group. [Post note meeting: Mark Knight of DWP will not join the Group but will maintain regular contact with SG officials, including prior to and after Group meetings.]

The Group agreed that

6. Carers views would be taken through the programme of user engagement rather than by having one or two carer members.This engagement will include a number of Social Security User Panels including carers which will be run by Scottish Government

7. The Group should remain reasonably small for focus and efficiency. Links with the broader caring stakeholders could be achieved through formal links with Carers Reference Group or its future equivalent. Expertise on specific areas would be brought into the Group as and when necessary. The Scottish Government Carer Policy member would represent health and social care policy.

8. It would be helpful to have feedback from work already carried out at the next meeting. Action SG analysts

9. The remit should be explicit on the wider policy landscape of carer benefit, specifically ‘carer’ should be removed from bullet point three in the role and remit. Wording on analysis to be made more specific Action SG policy and analysis

Policy background and context presentations: issues and opportunities

  • Scottish Government policy context – SG social security policy
  • Carers and benefits evidence base – SG analysts
  • Carer policy (Paper 2 - – SG carer policy
  • Carer issues and key opportunities – Carers Scotland

10. The Group noted

  • The need to understand what the existing evidence base tells us
  • The importance of utilising carers’ perspective to improve processes, including simplification of application forms and language used
  • The opportunity to better support young carers, including those in education and to ensure seamless transition into being adult carers
  • The importance of a carer benefit being an independent income
  • The low uptake of Carer’s Allowance and the need for clear information and advice to increase the number of people claiming what they are entitled to
  • That the current Carer’s Allowance is too low and that it should be at least in line with Job Seekers Allowance. Some members favoured a radical increase, potentially that SG should provide a ‘Citizen’s Income’ style benefit in line with the national living wage.
  • The severe financial context in which we are operating, which may constrain policy options. This underlines the importance of being clear on the outcomes we are looking to achieve in the short and longer terms, and ensuring that the right data is gathered to measure progress and support a strategic approach to policy development.
  • The vital role non social security areas can have in addressing issues associated with the benefit, for example carers discount cards with support of local businesses to provide recognition for carers
  • The opportunity to consider ‘cliff edges’ for social security and whether the Scottish approach can deal with them better for carers
  • The need to be aware of consequences for carers from wider legislation eg minimum wage on accessibility to Carer’s Allowance
  • Concern over positive intentions having negative effects, specifically being wary of claw-back from Westminster to undermine efforts

Next steps

11. Add carer BME contacts to stakeholder list Action Carers Scotland and Carers Trust

12. Project planning for carer benefit within the wider social security programme planning is underway. The group will review the plan. Action SG policy

13. The Group agreed that a workshop day event should be held for the Group to get fully up to speed on the context, share available analysis, review the Project Plan, and discuss and generate ideas including on practical implementation issues. Action SG policy


14. There was no other business.

What Who When
Amend and recirculate remit SG policy Next Meeting
Provide BME carer contacts to SG Carers Scotland and Carers Trust Next Meeting
Share analytical proposals SG analysts Next Meeting
Next meeting to take a workshop format covering: Feedback from stakeholders and users to date, Input to Carer Benefit Project Plan, Policy ideas and discussion SG policy and analysts Next Meeting


Email: Ellen Searle

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