Carer Benefits Advisory Group minutes: October 2018

Minutes of the twelfth meeting of the Carer Benefits Advisory Group, held on 17 October 2018.

Attendees and apologies


  • Ellen Searle, Scottish Government
  • Louise Morgan, Carers Trust
  • Patricia Clark, Carers Scotland
  • Kate Dickenson, Scottish Government Analyst
  • Jonathan Wright, Scottish Government
  • Jane Kellock, Social Work Scotland
  • Thomas Grant, Scottish Government
  • Stephen O’Neill, Scottish Government
  • Paul Traynor, Scottish Government
  • Roisin Connolly, Connecting Carers
  • Catherine Henry, Scottish Government Analyst
  • Suzanne Munday, MECOPP
  • Peggy Winford, Scottish Government


  • Shirley Morris, VOCAL
  • Alison MacLeod, Health and Social Care Partnership
  • Emma MacSween, Health and Social Care Partnership
  • Robert McGregor, CoSLA
  • David Ward, Scottish Government
  • Hazel Stewart, Scottish Government

Items and actions

Updates and review actions 

1. Update papers were circulated to group and members reflected on actions from previous meetings:

  • provide update on definition of terminal illness

Carers policy officials worked with Social Security colleagues to make them aware of the definition of terminal illness within the Carers Act during the passage of the Social Security Bill.  This was taken into account, however a different definition was ultimately chosen for the purposes of Scottish Social Security.

  • amember asked how would these rights differ for individuals

Within Social Security someone may be considered terminally ill at a different stage than they would under Carers act – we will look to work with colleagues going forward to ensure these differences are communicated clearly to carers so as to avoid confusion.

  • update on disregards and passporting for CAS

Officials noted they so far they haven’t heard of any problems that were not identified prior to the launch of the benefit. Members were encouraged to share any occasions where CAS has affected any other UK provided benefits.

  • find more information on Carer element uptake for Universal Credit (UC)

As of June 2018, 5.5% of UC claimants in Scotland were receiving the carer’s element. 

  • provide update on equality monitoring of Experience Panels

These details included ethnicity, race, gender, belief and sexual orientation. Officials found that 2% of panel members come from minority backgrounds. To combat underrepresentation analysts have met with 100+ people from minority ethnic groups. 

On religion the results show the majority of panel members identify as non-religious or within Christian faith. A smaller number that identified as minority religion and 1 – 3% of the group are followers of Islam. As a result officials learned there is no Sikh representation in the panels. 

In terms of sexual orientations, 9% identified as gay, lesbian or bi-sexual. There were a low number of members who are transgender. Analysts are working on this to improve representation and input.

2. Members noted the Experience Panels are made up of 2400 people, and questioned if there had been drop off in membership.

  • membership was slightly closer to 500 when the panels began but there has drop off. Analysts will be looking at who has dropped out and why

Action: SG analysts to circulate full report of demographics for panel.

Social Security Charter: carer perspectives

3. Officials shared how the Charter will put dignity and respect into practice in the agency through engagement with a Core Group of 30 members.

4. With discussion and engagement there are two main objectives that emerged from the group:

  • the Charter should act as clear statement of people’s rights
  • the Charter should give some idea of how these will be delivered in practice                                                

5. On redress and accountability there are two components:

  • individual redress – complain direct to agency if experience falls short of standards, complaints needs to be embedded
  • systemic redress – Ministers report on actions they and the agency have taken to continuously achieve outcomes of the Charter to the Scottish Commission on Social Security (SCoSS) on an annual basis

6. The Charter contains a strong whistleblowing component. Organisations can submit evidence to SCoSS who can investigate and address complaints.

7. Within the Core Group there is no representation from ME groups, young people, or the LGBTQI community. To tackle this separate sessions were held with the above groups as well as; Islanders, BME Women, gypsy/travellers and women who have been victims of domestic abuse to ensure there is a wide range of perspectives consulted.

8. 27 stakeholders are involved through specific sessions and bi-lateral discussions to get perspectives on what should be included in the Charter.

Action: SG to share the Core Group’s published report.

9. There was a concern during bill process that the Charter may just be customer service standards for agency staff. While it does include service standards the Charter also includes systemic standards. These fall under four themes:

  • people, e.g. staff behaviour toward clients
  • processes e.g. ensuring processes are simple and clear and co-designed
  • learning and Improving e.g. values based recruitment and valuing feedback
  • aBetter Future e.g. ensuring wider Government policy is reflective of human rights, co-design and the social security principles.

10. The Charter outlines the culture and values Social Security Scotland should reflect and concludes the agency should be an organisation that:

  • owns up to its mistakes
  • values feedback
  • looks at complaints
  • clearly explains where things have changed
  • supports its staff
  • is a good employer to work for
  • is fully accessible with a welcoming and comfortable environment

11. It details through the use of respectful fair vocabulary, agreed with stakeholders and Experience Panels, the Agency will challenge existing stigma around benefits and place a responsibility to improve benefit take up.

12. The Government believes the Core Group has produced a rich set of findings and will promote these findings of the Charter through; a medium sized booklet, a smaller leaflet, posters and by sharing more detailed papers.

13. Group members were asked for feedback:

  • amember noted that a “clear statement of rights” (4) can be hard to tally in a document, as legal rights can be very different in how they can be delivered, both to and for individuals. Regarding human, social, and economic right, the only way to challenge this is through the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service which can be expensive and therefore not provide redress to the customer. By filing administrative rights within the Charter the functions that exist within the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018 will make it enforceable
  • in response it was noted that the charter can be used as a basis for complaints.  SG will also be held to account through a duty to report to Parliament and the ability of the new independent Commission on Social Security to also report to Parliament
  • the chair noted that carers are often time poor and therefore may not have the time to input into a lot of the Core Group’s discussions. Carers are involved in core group and officials also hold individual sessions or share surveys to engage with members who can’t be present
  • concerns were raised by group members that the Carer’s Charter still hasn’t been enacted by Local Authorities, how can officials ensure the Social Security Charter is actually acted on?  SCoSS (5) will scrutinise through the Human Rights Framework. This will place a statutory requirement to report on training, evaluation and measuring people’s experiences. If performance falls short of what is outlined in the Charter Ministers will be accountable through annual review. Officials meet regularly with CoSLA who support work on the charter

Action: SG to reflect CBAG input in work on the charter.

Evaluation of carer benefits

14. Programme colleagues joined the group to input on the evaluation of the Carer’s Allowance Supplement (CAS). It was highlighted that the evaluation is still in its early stages and as such officials are looking for input from stakeholders into the evaluation of CAS and other carer benefits.

15. It was noted this evaluation is to examine the implementation of policy and assess if outcomes have been achieved and lessons learned. It was also highlighted that evaluating Social Security is difficult as you need prove that outcomes are attributable to policy.

16. Members looked at a logic model used in the evaluation of Best Start Grant (BSG) which maps evaluation indicators and how these can be improved. Members noted that an evaluation on CAS should include:

  • the communication surrounding CAS prior to launch
  • the experience of receiving the first payment
  • agency’s handling
  • continued comms
  • letter that went with CAS
  • customer service standard

17. Members questioned on the process to collate data and officials noted work on this is ongoing. 

  • data sources will include delivery/administrative data from the Agency, as well as existing data from the Carer Census and commissioned data which is bespoke and answers specific outcomes that are asked. As the evaluation is both on process and policy, data from Social Security Scotland is still to be developed and still under limits. DWP will also input

18. Members noted that due to time pressures the response rate from Carers giving feedback may be low, meaning the evaluation wouldn’t be truly representative of the people who really need the benefit. Members also acknowledged that while Carers have been engaging with Experience Panels and Carers Centres, these miss the hardest to reach carers and noted these voices would be valuable.

19. Officials outline identified outcomes CAS should fulfil and asked members to share any outcomes they feel CAS should fulfil

  • positive affect on local economy and impact on wider community/society

20. The timeframe for collecting data will be at least a year, members were asked if they felt this would allow enough time for evaluation:

  • members raised a concern around the need to establish a baseline before then
  • members were interested to see feedback from this on advertisement and timing of payments to see if there are people who feel it was too late

Young Carer Grant

21. Due to time constraints members agreed to be updated via correspondence.

Action: SG to provide a written update.

Carers Strategic Policy Statement

22. Officials are considering beginning work on a Carers Strategic Policy Statement to consolidate work ongoing at national level to help carers, this will include the Carers Act, carer benefits, young carers and GIRFEC, employment and transport amongst other things. Officials want to frame this in a way that people can easily understand the activity that is underway. It will complement the work underway on adult social care reform. It will not look to create any new actions.

Action: SG Carers Policy to hold a fuller session on the Statement at a future meeting.

Future of CBAG

23. Officials are conscious that they want the best input with the least amount of time spent. As such it was proposed to continue with the quarterly meetings with getting the dates for these confirmed early, with the assumption that they will go ahead and will be cancelled if there is not much to discuss.

24. Members were happy with the proposition to continue the group more flexibly, with for example update papers circulated when the group does not meet, and to have workshops for bigger pieces of work.

Action: Chair to speak to non-attendees on flexible approach to CBAG and come back to members on the proposed way forward.


25. Stakeholders were asked for feedback from carers on CAS.

  • most enquiries over the phone have been regarding UC and how this interacts with CAS
  • noted there hasn’t been much feedback, negative or positive.– which is usually an indicator that it is going fine 

Post note meeting: Highland Carers Centre circulated a small survey to contacts immediately after the meeting, this reflected the feedback from members.

Action: Members were asked to highlight and bring to the at attention of officials occasions where disregarding in practice is not working as it is outlined in legislation.


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