Carer Support Payment: fairer Scotland duty assessment - summary

The Fairer Scotland duty impact assessment summarises potential impacts of the Carer’s Assistance (Carer Support Payment) (Scotland) Regulations 2023 on socio-economic inequality. It builds on, and should be read alongside the equality impact assessment.

Summary of evidence – policy context

The link between socio-economic disadvantage and caring

Research has shown that in the UK unpaid carers are more likely to live in poverty than the general population.[19] On top of reduced capacity to work because of caring responsibilities, carers often have to spend a larger proportion of their income on energy costs, food bills and transport to support the person they care for.[20] Even before the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic and the current cost of living crisis, many carers faced precarious financial situations, and 1.2 million carers were living in poverty.[21] Based on 2022 UK poverty data, 6 in 10 of those who are caring for 35 hours or more a week are not in work, which is three times the rate of those caring for less than 20 hours a week.[22] Recent research from Carers Trust on older adult unpaid carers in Scotland found that 82% of all respondents agreed that their caring role had financially impacted them. Also, 25% reported they felt financially worse off now when comparing to their financial situation 12 months before, highlighting the impact of the cost of living on certain carer groups[23]. Carers UK also found that those on the lowest incomes are struggling the most due to the crisis and a quarter of carers are cutting back on food and heat to make ends meet.[24]

In the Scottish Health Survey 2019, around half of working age Carer’s Allowance recipients (47%) reported that the impact of their caring responsibilities meant they were unable to take up paid work. A quarter reported leaving work altogether as a result, with another 13% reporting working fewer hours as a result of their caring responsibilities.

Poverty is also persistent amongst certain communities of interest[25]. Between 2002/03 and 2019/20, the number of people in deep poverty increased by 1.8 million (from 4.7 million to 6.5 million) and the risk of living in deep poverty increased by a third for people in families with a disabled person (15% - 2.3 million).[26] Because of the intersections of caring responsibilities and other existing barriers and disadvantages (for example in employment or finance), certain communities of interest like Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic carers are more likely to suffer financial difficulties[27]. This may be in part because these carers are more likely to be long-term carers, providing more care than White British carers, and experiencing more costs of caring on top of other social barriers like language and cultural barriers preventing them from accessing benefits and other support services.

In Scotland, intensive caring roles also have links with certain communities of place,[28] for example, 29% of carers in the most deprived areas care for 35 hours a week or more – more than double the level in the least deprived areas.[29] Caring may therefore stem from lack of choice and may be exacerbated by existing inequalities of low incomes and poor health in these areas.[30] Certain communities of interest in Scotland who are likely to be carers are more likely to have socio-economic disadvantage. For example, while we know most of the carers who receive Carer’s Allowance at present are women, we also know that poverty rates are highest for single women with children (38%).[31]Relative poverty rate after housing costs for pensioners was 15% in 2019-22, or 150,000 pensioners each year, and has been consistently below that for working-age adults (21%).[32]

It is also estimated that around 11.5%[33] of households in receipt of the current Carer’s Allowance benefit are lone parent households, another priority group identified in the Delivery Plan.

The Scottish Government’s Race Equality Framework[34] states that tackling poverty is a priority for the Scottish Government across all communities and that the clear link between race and poverty must be tackled. In 2017-22 people from non-white minority ethnic groups were more likely to be in relative poverty, with poverty rates at 49% for ‘Asian or Asian British’ ethnic groups, and 48% for Mixed, Black, or Black British and Other’ ethnic groups. This compares to 18% amongst the ‘White British group’ and 23% amongst the ‘White -other’ group.[35]

A recent report from Carers UK also found that carers from ethnic minorities are likely to be facing greater financial struggles than White British carers.[36] They also found from researching another cohort of carers that 65% of bisexual carers and 62% of lesbian and gay carers were also more concerned about their financial situations, compared to 50% of heterosexual carers during the pandemic.[37]

Particular link between poverty and disability

The introduction of Carer Support Payment and the transfer of benefits for those already receiving Carer’s Allowance, will affect unpaid carers and the people they care for. While published information is not available on the number of current recipients of Carer’s Allowance who are disabled, benefit combination information suggests that in February 2023 15,574 working age carers who were entitled to Carer’s Allowance were also entitled to Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment. A further 14,542 state pension age carers were also entitled to Carer’s Allowance and are entitled to one of Personal Independence Payment, Disability Living Allowance or Attendance Allowance. A significant proportion of those eligible for Carer’s Allowance are therefore disabled themselves. It is important to note that 'entitled to' does not necessarily mean in receipt of payment. It is also estimated that around 90%[38] of those who receive the current Carer’s Allowance benefit live in a household with a disabled person.

Research has shown that poverty disproportionately affects disabled people, who experience higher poverty rates than the rest of the population.[39] UK-wide, disabled people make up 28% of people in poverty and a further 20% of people in poverty live in a household with a disabled person. This statistic is largely replicated in Scotland where around 410,000 households in poverty (42% of all households in poverty) include a disabled person.[40]

Scotland-wide, there are higher levels of child material deprivation in households including a disabled person, at 20% compared to households without a disabled person (at 8%). There are higher rates of food insecurity among disabled people (18%) compared to non-disabled people (5%). There is a higher likelihood of living in relative poverty after housing costs with a disabled person in the household (24% of families with a disabled person compared to 17% of families with no disabled members). If disability benefits are not counted towards household income, this increases to 29%.[41] 'Family' in these circumstances referred to the core family in a household, comprising one or two adults and children, if any.

Disability and unemployment/under-employment are positively correlated. 14% of 'workless families' (defined as families where parents are predominately out of work or have little connection to the labour market, who live in social rented accommodation and are reliant on benefits for their income) have one or more children with a disability or long-term illness.

A further 17% of 'struggling to get by' families (unemployed or working part-time, half of which are single-parent families) have one or more children with a disability or long-term illness.[42] Even where one or more parent in the household is in employment, within families with a disabled child, the same level of income secures a lower standard of living than it would for a disabled person.

Research conducted by the Papworth Trust[43] showed that the annual cost of bringing up a disabled child is three times greater than for a non-disabled child. Disabled people face higher costs than non-disabled people, such as the cost of specialist equipment, therapies and home adaptations to manage a condition.[44] Travel costs may also be higher as families have to afford the cost of taxis to and from hospital where it is not possible to use public transport (and/or public transport may not be available).

Poverty amongst disabled people is likely to be exacerbated in light of the COVID-19 crisis. In the United Nations policy brief on disability-inclusive response to COVID-19[45], the report makes connections between the pandemic and poverty, with disabled people likely to be disproportionately impacted.

Communities of place: island communities

Highlands and Island Enterprise found that, typically, the minimum cost of living in remote rural Scotland ranged between 10% and 35% more than the equivalent in urban Britain in 2016. The additional costs are mainly from shopping, broadband, delivery costs, transport, childcare, and fuel costs. More recent research has shown that additional minimum living costs for households in remote rural Scotland typically add 15-30% to a household budget, compared to urban areas of theUK. In 2019, the fuel poverty rate for remote rural (43%) households was higher than for urban (24%) households or rural households (29%)[46].

Higher living costs on islands, combined with higher fuel costs, can create the conditions for extreme fuel poverty for households on low incomes. A lack of choice and accessibility for people living in island communities means that shopping, mobile phone services and broadband can be more expensive for carers living in island communities compared to those on the mainland. The greater distances and remoteness mean that day to day travel, postage, fuel, daytrips and holidays are also more expensive for carers in remote communities. [47]



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