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 assessment findings

The primary National Outcome that Carer Support Payment proposals will address is tackling poverty. Existing Carer’s Allowance recipients tend to be in the bottom half of the income distribution although the proportion of households experiencing poverty is similar to the rest of the population.[48]

Around 70% of current Carer’s Allowance recipients are also receiving other benefits which will continue to be provided by the Department for Work and Pensions[49]. This means we need to consider carefully any changes we make to how Carer Support Payment works to ensure there are no unintended consequences for other benefits they receive that could leave them worse off.

Improved delivery and join-up

When Carer Support Payment launches, we will deliver a service which has been informed by research and testing with the people who will use it, so that it works for them. Carers will be able to apply for the benefit online, by phone, using paper forms, and with support from Social Security Scotland’s Local Delivery Teams. Online applications will use the same systems as our disability benefits, allowing busy carers to save and return to applications.

The application process will be trust-based, in line with our principles of dignity, fairness and respect, with carers self-reporting that they meet the caring hours requirements. Award decisions will be automated where the outcome is favourable overall to the carer, meaning applications should be processed faster to ensure carers can receive the support they are entitled to sooner. Online information, application forms, and notifications have been tested with those who will use them to ensure they are clear and as simple as possible to use.

Providing clear, accessible, and trust-based application processes, as well as not requiring applications from carers whose benefits will transfer from Carer’s Allowance will help remove barriers to receiving support.

From launch we will also signpost carers to wider support and services they may benefit from – in the pre-application information provided, during application where relevant, and in notifications. This will allow carers to access clear information on the support available to them, including other social security benefits they may be entitled to, as well as wider carer support services. This is intended to maximise carers’ incomes and take-up of all of the support they are eligible for which will be particularly important for those on lower incomes. Our intention is to continue to strengthen how Carer Support Payment links carers to wider support beyond launch and alongside wider development of the benefit.

Improved join-up to wider carer support services is also anticipated to positively impact island and rural carers facing lack of access to services, who may face higher costs of living. The Local Delivery service will allow island and remote rural carers more choice and flexibility in how they access support. The Social Security Scotland Client Survey for 2021/22 found that Islanders were more likely than urban or rural respondents to access Local Delivery support in person, through home visits or at arranged venues.

Communications and take-up

Research by the Centre for Care published in 2022 suggests that 6.4% of people in Scotland become carers every year.[50] We are committed to maximising the take-up of Scottish benefits, including Carer Support Payment from launch. It will be important in tackling socio-economic disadvantage to ensure that people know what benefits they are entitled to, and that they are able to easily and consistently access financial support they are eligible for, to maximise incomes. We are working with a range of partners who have experience in benefit take-up to learn every lesson we can on what works best. The Scottish Government’s second Benefit Take-up Strategy sets out our approach to removing barriers to accessing entitlements.

As set out above, we recognise that some communities, who may already face socio-economic disadvantage and higher risk of poverty, may face barriers to accessing support, and we are working to ensure that the design of communications and engagement activity to promote Carer Support Payment, and the design of the benefit processes and materials takes these barriers into account. Social Security Scotland automatically creates all its promotional materials in seven languages – Farsi, Polish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Arabic, Gaelic and Urdu, with materials translated into any other language upon request. Carers from a range of ethnic backgrounds have been involved in User Research to design the application process for Carer Support Payment.

Running up to the launch of Carer Support Payment, we will ensure the language and cultural barriers of some Minority Ethnic communities are considered effectively to improve uptake. We will run advertising campaigns to reach seldom heard groups and raise awareness of Carer Support Payment. We will aim to promote the benefit in a way which will remove stigma. As is being done with our disability benefits, Social Security Scotland communications will work with community radio and foreign language press to promote Carer Support Payment to particular communities. In some circumstances printed marketing materials may not be the right way to engage with these communities and where this is the case, we will look to alternatives, working with Social Security Scotland’s National Stakeholder Engagement and Local Delivery functions.

We know from work on other benefits that some communities may face barriers to receiving support if they do not have a bank account, for example gypsy/traveller communities. To ensure people without bank accounts can access support, Social Security Scotland payments can be made to Post Office and Credit Union accounts, or using iMovo which is a secure digital voucher system that can be delivered to individuals in several media (SMS, email). These can be redeemed at multiple PayPoint outlets in Scotland.

Once Carer Support Payment is up and running, we will continue to take feedback from carers and others to identify and address any barriers to accessing support and to maximise carers’ take up of all the support available to them.

Residence requirements

The ‘past-presence test’ which will apply to Carer Support Payment will be reduced compared to the test which applies to Carer’s Allowance, and the regulations also dis-apply the past presence test in line with the devolved disability benefits, so that carers are not required to meet the test where they are terminally ill, or have refugee status. In addition to this the past presence test will be dis-applied for carers where it has been disapplied for the person they are caring for, to ensure carers can be supported to provide care once the person they are caring for has received support. This will help to address financial difficulties as carers will be able to receive support sooner, as well as ensuring consistency with the disability benefits.

The reduced past presence test will impact UK nationals returning to Scotland, and third country nationals who have immigration status that allows them access to public funds. There are significant challenges in relation to the data available on these groups and the proportion of people who may have access to benefits, however the change is not anticipated to affect significant numbers, and there is limited information on those affected. It would be expected to particularly benefit women as the majority of unpaid carers and recipients of the existing benefits.

The test has been considered by and agreed with the Department for Work and Pensions in recognition of the importance of ensuring that carers can continue to receive support which is the responsibility of the UK Government but linked to Carer’s Allowance (and in future Carer Support Payment). Respondents to the consultation were also in favour of the residence requirements for Carer Support Payment aligning with devolved disability benefits.

We recognise there are calls for the past presence test to be removed altogether, to allow more people to receive support sooner. However, it is considered that this would need to be examined across all devolved benefits and taking into account the potential impacts for safe and secure transfer, and implications for wider support.

Suspensions and temporary stops

The approach to suspensions and temporary stops in entitlement for Carer Support Payment is based on feedback from stakeholders that suspension powers in some existing benefits are too broad, may be used punitively, and can cause hardship. Having to manage for a period without benefit payments would be a particular issue for those on lower incomes. Our proposed policy to suspend payments less frequently, and to consider whether it will lead to hardship for a client before implementing suspensions should therefore be particularly beneficial to those on lower incomes.

Proposals to ‘temporarily stop’ rather than ending awards in situations where a carer is temporarily not entitled to support – for example where the benefits of the person they care for have been nil-rated due to a hospital stay, or where the carer has earnings which are over the earnings limit – are intended to reduce the need for re-applications and allow support to be resumed sooner after a gap in entitlement. This should also be particularly beneficial to those on lower incomes by reducing any gap between payments and the administrative work required to reinstate support.

Carer Support Payment can also continue to be paid in some circumstances where the cared for person’s qualifying benefit is suspended which should provide greater stability in support for carers, which will be of particular importance to those on lower incomes and those receiving income-related benefits which are impacted by Carer Support Payment. Where the qualifying disability benefit is suspended but their entitlement to support is not in question (e.g., it has been stopped due to an issue with third party payments) this will not affect Carer Support Payment. Carer Support Payment will also continue to be paid for the first 28 days where the qualifying disability benefit is suspended for other reasons. As above, this is intended to provide more stability for carers where their benefits are affected by circumstances out with their control.


Receipt of Carer Support Payment will reduce the amount of support carers receive in any income-related benefits they are receiving. However, carers will still be better off overall as they will then be entitled to additional amounts in recognition of their caring role. For Carer Support Payment we are putting in place legislation and processes to mirror the ‘abatement’ process currently used in Carer’s Allowance.

This will offset overpayments where someone who is receiving an income-related legacy benefit (Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, and Pension Credit) is awarded Carer Support Payment. It will reduce the amount of any Carer Support Payment arrears to be paid by the amount of the legacy benefit which has been overpaid. Carers will be asked to agree to the process, and it will not be carried out if they do not. However, the intention is to avoid carers being paid money which would then be recovered at a later date by DWP in a way which is out with the control of Social Security Scotland. This is intended to support carers, particular those on lower incomes who will be receiving these benefits, by providing certainty that the Carer Support Payment we are paying them will not be recovered elsewhere.

There is no abatement process currently in place for Universal Credit. Where a carer in receipt of Universal Credit applies for Carer’s Allowance or Carer Support Payment, then the Department for Work and Pensions should take any award of Carer’s Allowance of Carer Support Payment into account from the start of the Universal Credit assessment period when it is received.If there are arrears of Carer’s Allowance or Carer Support Payment due, then the Department for Work and Pensions should take these into account in the equivalent Universal Credit assessment period. Where this results in an overpayment of Universal Credit, the Department for Work and Pensions will recover this through deductions from the monthly Universal Credit award, rather than offsetting or abating the amount all at once as is the case for legacy benefits. Information and guidance provided on Carer Support Payment will set out clearly how Carer Support Payment will affect Universal Credit.

Rules on education

From launch of Carer Support Payment, we will introduce changes to the education rules, allowing carers aged 20 or over in full-time education at any level, and carers aged 16-19 in full-time advanced education to access the benefit. It will remain the case that carers in part-time education at all levels and of any age, will be able to access the benefit, in line with Carer’s Allowance. However, the changes will mean, that more carers can access Carer Support Payment and study full-time, reducing barriers to education.

We know that carers in full-time education may be less able to supplement any student support they get through part-time work in the same way as other students as a result of their caring role. Extending access to Carer Support Payment will allow more carers to access or remain in education and receive financial support through Carer Support Payment. This policy has the potential to allow for better support and stability in the short-term whilst providing better career and financial prospects in the longer-term through access to education.

We are working closely with the Student Awards Agency Scotland and the Scottish Funding Council to ensure that the extension of entitlement to Carer Support Payment is fully reflected within relevant guidance. Additionally, we are working with them to ensure the extension of entitlement to Carer Support Payment is reflected in overall levels of support for full-time student carers across social security; and to avoid any unintended consequences of extending eligibility, that access to further and higher education maintained for unpaid carers.

As part of the national roll out of the benefit, we will expand eligibility to some carers aged 16-19 in full-time non-advanced education. This will allow carers who would have entitlement to social security benefits in their own right, such as those without parental support or who have childcare responsibilities, limited capability for work or couples where one or both are student, to access the benefit. This is in recognition of the fact that these carers are unlikely to have any other form of parental or financial support and may face additional barriers to taking on paid work, and is intended to avoid these carers being financially disadvantaged compared to other carers age 16 to 19.

Earnings rules

Carer Support Payment will be an ‘income replacement’ benefit in the same way as Carer’s Allowance. This means that there are rules around the amount someone can earn while receiving Carer Support Payment. From launch, to support a safe and secure transfer of benefits for those already receiving Carer’s Allowance, and to avoid a ‘two tier system’ which would disadvantage some carers, the earnings limit and earnings rules will align with Carer’s Allowance. However, we have considered how support could be made more stable in line with our overall aims, and to support carers to continue in employment where they wish to.

Earnings processes for Carer Support Payment have been designed to allow for carers’ earnings to be averaged to meet the eligibility criteria where they sometimes earn over the earnings limit but sometimes do not. This will allow more carers with irregular earnings to receive support and reduce the number of situations where support is interrupted by changes in earnings. Carers’ earnings can be averaged over five weeks as standard where they sometimes earn over the limit, but other periods can be chosen where this would give a more accurate picture, with the potential to discount unusually high earnings from assessments. As set out above, where carers have earnings over the limit, we can use ‘temporary stops in entitlement’ to end an award but reinstate it without the need for a further application.

We are also working to design information and processes around earnings assessment to be as clear as possible in recognition of the fact that this is complex, and carers have raised concerns about how this works currently for Carer’s Allowance. This is also an area of focus for continuous improvement for the benefit. This is because we recognise the importance of ensuring that carers can clearly understand their entitlement to the benefit and how this is affected by earnings but also understand the changes, they are required to report to avoid overpayments. It will remain the case for Carer Support Payment, as with other benefits, that where overpayments arise, we will consider clients’ circumstances in decisions around recovery.

Re-determination and appeal

Extending the time individuals have to request a re-determination to 42 days (compared with the 31-day timescale for the low-income benefits) is anticipated to have a positive impact by providing more time to seek advice or support when challenging a decision. It also recognises the range of pressures on unpaid carers, providing additional time to submit a challenge as well as clear timescales within which Social Security Scotland should carry this out.

We recognise that there were a number of respondents who were concerned that the period for a re-determination to be completed was too long or felt timescales for requesting and carrying out re-determinations should be the same. However, the proposed timescales should provide more time to request a re-determination, in recognition of the time pressures on carers, and consistency with the disability benefits. As with all of our benefits, we are committed to continuous improvement after Carer Support Payment launches and will monitor the operation of re-determinations and appeals to ensure these are working well for carers, support organisations and Social Security Scotland.

Carer’s Allowance Supplement

Alongside the regulations that will provide for the creation of Carer Support Payment our intention is to modify legislation for Carer’s Allowance Supplement to ensure that carers receiving Carer Support Payment can receive the Supplement in the same way as those receiving Carer’s Allowance.

Carer’s Allowance Supplement was introduced in 2018 to address the fact that Carer’s Allowance was otherwise the lowest of all working age benefits. Qualitative data from the evaluation for Carer’s Allowance Supplement[51] suggested carers who were struggling the most financially felt the biggest impact. It had a positive impact on relieving money worries around the months carers received the payment and had given them “a wee lift.” It also found that the Supplement had positively impacted on carer quality of life, and on carer feelings of recognition to some extent.

To protect the safe and secure transfer of benefits and ensure carers in Scotland are treated fairly, we do not plan to make any changes to how Carer’s Allowance Supplement is paid (other than to provide for payment to Carer Support Payment recipients) until after case transfer is complete. However, our intention is that, after case transfer is complete, Carer’s Allowance Supplement could be paid alongside carers’ regular payments of Carer Support Payment in future. This could mean carers would receive higher regular payments and would reduce the risk of over or underpayments of support. As also noted by respondents to the public consultation it is considered this would be of particular importance to those on lower incomes as it would provide a higher regular and more stable income which would be better for budgeting.

Case transfer

Carer Support Payment will largely mirror Carer’s Allowance at launch to ensure a safe and secure transfer of awards for carers in Scotland who are already receiving Carer’s Allowance. We also want to avoid a ‘two tier system’ where carers in Scotland who are receiving Carer’s Allowance instead of Carer Support Payment are treated differently for a period.

We are transferring awards in line with our case transfer principles, developed through engagement with those with lived experience and in line with our Social Security principles of dignity, fairness, and respect. We will transfer awards automatically and the Carer Support Payment award will be made on a like-for-like basis as the Carer’sAllowance award.

We will not require individuals to make an application and we will seek to ensure there are no gaps in payment or breaks in entitlement due to the case transfer process. These measures will protect carer incomes during the case transfer process and ensure there is no burden on the client to make an application, risking a gap in entitlement, which will be of particular importance to carers with low incomes or at risk of poverty. We will also ensure communications with clients about the case transfer process are clear and easy to understand. Case transfer notifications carers receive will also signpost them to further support and advice that are available, including other social security benefits they may be entitled to, as well as wider carer support services.

Planned improvements

Carer's Additional Person Payment

Carer’s Additional Person Payment is a proposed new payment for carers in receipt of Carer Support Payment who have multiple caring roles, to be introduced as soon as possible after case transfer is complete. It is intended to provide extra financial support for carers in recognition of the impact of multiple caring roles on their health and wellbeing. While it is not intended as a payment for care, or as an income-replacement benefit, it is expected to benefit carers on lower incomes in particular. The additional support provided through Carer’s Allowance Supplement, at a similar level to the proposed Carer's Additional Person Payment was found to have the greatest impact on those facing the most financial difficulties.

Extending support after the loss of a cared for person

We are committed to increasing the period of time for which payments of Carer Support Payment are made after the person the carer is providing care for has died. From launch, the benefit will continue for 8 weeks but our research has found that the financial impact of the loss of the benefit, in addition to any disability benefits paid to the cared for person and related supports can be significant. The current ‘run on’ is not considered to provide sufficient time or support to adjust to the change. The extended support is anticipated to support those on lower incomes in particular who may be more reliant on the support provided through Carer Support Payment and the benefits of the person they care for.

Short-term assistance

In future, we plan to make short-term assistance[52] available to carers challenging decisions on ongoing Scottish Carer’s Assistance awards in some cases and to provide support to carers where short-term assistance is being paid to the person they care for. This is intended to provide support to carers, so they are not deterred from challenging decisions, and improve the stability of support for carers where there are changes to the benefits of the people they care for. We know that carers can face financial difficulties when carer benefits stop due to circumstances out with their control.

However, because of the complex links the existing Carer’s Allowance benefit has with support which remains reserved, we need to continue to work with the Department for Work and Pensions to consider the impacts on other benefits before finalising our plans. Following this detailed work and subject to agreement with the Department for Work and Pensions, we will deliver short-term assistance and related support for Carer Support Payment after case transfer is complete, rather than when the benefit first launches.



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