Publication - Consultation paper

Carers strategic policy statement: consultation

Published: 30 Sep 2019
Part of:
Health and social care

The Carers Strategic Policy Statement is intended to maximise the benefits from national policies and approaches intended to support carers (including major ongoing reforms such as implementation of the Carers (Scotland) Act and the development of our new social security powers for carers). It aims to do this by connecting a wide range of existing policies.

Carers strategic policy statement: consultation
4. Social and Financial inclusion

4. Social and Financial inclusion

Strategic Outcomes
Carers access the financial support and assistance they are entitled to.

Carers are able to take up or maintain meaningful employment alongside caring.

Carers can participate in and are valued by their community and wider society.

4.1 Why this is important
We recognise that intensive levels of caring are most common in the most deprived areas. We also understand that caring itself can bring financial impacts, which is why there is a role for social security support.

We know that some people give up work or reduce their hours to care, with consequences both for carers' financial wellbeing and their social isolation.

We understand that social isolation can be a particular risk for carers given the extra responsibilities they have and the financial burden often associated with caring. By engaging with carers in remote and island communities, we have heard how they face increased barriers such as higher living costs and greater distances to travel for caring or support.

4.2 Our approach
Continuing implementation of our commitments to reform carer benefits is one of two major priorities for carers policy. Increasing the income of carers through various approaches helps to address economic inequality as well as providing recognition of the invaluable contribution carers make to society.

Our vision highlights our aspiration for more carer friendly communities. We want our communities to be places where carers feel supported to look after family or friends. In a carer friendly community, public services might offer appointment times to fit around caring responsibilities; employers might offer flexible working conditions for staff; and universities and colleges might offer extensions or support to students who are also caring.

Carer friendly communities are places that reach out to support carers wherever they can by understanding caring, understanding disability and illness, and doing things differently.

In designing our newly devolved Social Security benefits, we have considered the needs of carers by drawing from their advice and lived-experience and will continue to do so with future developments and commitments.

Although employment law is reserved to the UK Government, we are using the levers at our disposal to raise awareness and encourage the implementation of fair work practices amongst employers to support carers in Scotland to access and balance work and caring where possible.

To address the risks of social isolation among carers, we are working in several ways to remove barriers to participation in training, education and employment opportunities as well as social and leisure activities. We are also implementing a transport plan which focuses on improving door to door journeys for people with disabilities and removing the barriers which prevent them from accessing travel. For carers, this will assist in addressing social isolation of the people that they care for.

4.3 Social security – Carer's Assistance
The Scotland Act 2016 gave the Scottish Government new powers relating to social security, and responsibility over certain benefits, including carer benefits. We are using these powers to create a Scottish social security system based on dignity, fairness and respect. In doing this, we are engaging with stakeholders and with people with experience of receiving benefits, to build a social security system that works for them. As part of this we are working with our Social Security Experience Panels – more than 2,400 volunteers from across Scotland with experience of the current benefits system – to shape how our benefits are designed and delivered.

We are using the opportunity provided by the devolution of carer benefits to improve support for carers, and ensure that social security is better aligned with wider carer services. We are working with carers and stakeholders to expand the support provided and to design benefits which better suit the needs of carers, so that they:

  • are supported to look after their own health and wellbeing, improve their quality of life and reduce any negative impact of caring,
  • participate fully in society and, if they choose, engage in training, education and employment opportunities, as well as social and leisure activities,
  • have an increased sense of control and empowerment over their lives.

Currently the main social security benefit for carers is Carer's Allowance (CA), an income-replacement benefit. CA is a payment of up to £66.15 per week for those who are caring for 35 or more hours a week for someone in receipt of specified disability benefits. CA is not means-tested but recipients cannot earn more than £123 per week after deductions, or be in full time education for more than 21 hours a week.

Only a small proportion of Scotland's unpaid carers receive this support. In February 2019, there were 76,597 CA recipients in Scotland[68]. 69% of CA payments were made to female carers and 31% to male carers. CA recipients have increased in recent years and this is forecast to continue, as a result of increases in the State Pension age and the number of people receiving disability benefits, with an estimated 103,000 carers expected to be receiving CA by 2024/25.[69]

38% of those who are eligible for CA in Scotland do not receive it because they are also in receipt of another income replacement benefit such as State Pension, contribution based Jobseeker's Allowance or Contributory Employment and Support Allowance which is paid at an equivalent or higher rate (this is known as the 'overlapping benefit rule'). These carers are said to have an 'underlying entitlement' to CA and may be eligible for a premium or addition. This is extra money included in the calculation of means tested benefits such as Income Support and Pension Credit. People receiving Universal Credit (UC), who are also caring for 35 hours a week, may also qualify for extra money in their UC award – a Carer Element. These additional payments remain reserved to the UK Government.

We recognise that some people may be missing out on support because they don't see themselves as 'carers', or because of wider barriers which prevent people from claiming benefits. We are committed to supporting people to receive what they are entitled to and are working with a range of partners who have experience in benefit take up to learn every lesson we can on what works best.

4.3.1 Carer's Allowance Supplement
We considered it unfair that Carer's Allowance was the lowest of all working age benefits. In recognition of the vital contribution carers make, increasing the support carers receive through CA was one of our first commitments using our new social security powers.

Our Carer's Allowance Supplement (CAS) increases CA by 13% and these combined payments are now higher than Jobseeker's Allowance for carers in Scotland. CAS is paid every six months to carers who are in receipt of a full or partial CA payment on the relevant qualifying date. Since launching in September 2018, 235,405 payments have been made to 91,550 carers who were eligible at any qualifying date. CA and CAS are uprated in line with inflation every year – in 2019/20, each CAS payment is £226.20.

CAS is paid to carers by the Scottish Government while CA continues to be paid by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) through an Agency Agreement. This is to allow us to provide additional support as soon as possible to some of the lowest income carers before we begin delivery of Scottish Carer's Allowance from 2022 (see section 4.3.4).

4.3.2 Young Carer Grant
The Grant is a new annual payment for carers aged 16 to 18 (see section 5.6.1).

4.3.3 Additional payment for carers of more than one disabled child
It is estimated that there are 1,900 parents in receipt of Carer's Allowance in Scotland who have caring responsibilities for more than one disabled child[70]. Many parents of disabled children state that they receive less help and support than other carers as it is perceived that they are responsible for the child, regardless of the child having a disability. Furthermore, some parents with severely disabled children see their caring role as lifelong[71].

Currently carers can only receive one CA payment regardless of how many people they are caring for. The Scottish Government is committed to increasing CA for those looking after more than one disabled child within this parliamentary term. We are developing this policy by working with Social Security Experience Panels[72] and members of the Carer Benefits Advisory Group (CBAG)[73].

4.3.4 Long term changes to Carer's Allowance
We will open new applications for our replacement for Carer's Allowance from early 2022. To begin with, new claims will be on broadly the same terms as the existing DWP benefit, and will entitle people to the other support we have made available to carers (CAS and the additional child payment).

However, there are other changes to eligibility that carers and stakeholders have asked us to consider. Due to complexities with other benefits, and our principle of protecting people and their payments, we will only make those changes when we are sure there will not be an adverse impact on carers in Scotland.

We will therefore consult in 2021 on the proposals we expect to make to support for carers in the longer term and respond to what carers tell us will support them when it is safe and practical to do so.

Throughout all of this work, carer support organisations and vitally, carers themselves, will continue to be central to designing both the overarching and the detailed policy that will deliver our vision for carers. The independent Disability and Carers Benefits Expert Advisory Group[74] will also consider and make recommendations on longer term changes to carer benefits.

4.4 Carers and employment

4.4.1 Carers in the workforce
Around 270,000 people in Scotland combine work and unpaid care[75]. This represents around 1 in 8 of the workforce. These numbers are likely to grow in the context of an aging population and more people living longer with complex conditions. Most people will be carers at some stage in their working lives.

Working age women are most likely to be carers and the likelihood of caring increases for those in their late 40s and early 50s. Over a quarter of women in this age bracket are carers. This represents a large and skilled portion of the workforce.

Balancing care with employment can be a tricky juggling act. Caring roles tend to change over time, with the intensity and impact of the role linked to changes in the life stages and health and wellbeing of the carer and the person they care for. Many carers give up work or reduce their hours in order to cope. This may be a free personal choice but can also feel like less of a choice when an unsupported carer reaches crisis point and feels that work is the element of their life that needs to 'give'.

Giving up work can increase social isolation and loneliness for the carer and reduce financial security for them and their family. It can also have a longer term impact on their future career. When carers give up work, employers lose workers with valuable skills and experience and often incur high recruitment costs to replace lost workers.

Losing carers from an already shrinking workforce is a concern for the wider economy. It is estimated that that unpaid carers leaving employment cost the UK public purse £2.9 billion a year in welfare payments and lost tax revenue[76]. The impact of women reducing hours, not taking or applying for promotions, or leaving the labour market altogether in order to provide unpaid care, contributes towards Scotland's gender pay gap.

Supporting carers to stay in or enter work therefore brings vital benefits to carers, employers and the economy. A range of Scottish Government policies aim to recognise and promote these benefits. Some of these are specific to carers. Many are part of the wider fair work agenda but will have particular importance for carers. Our aim is to support people into work by ensuring the employability offer in Scotland is person-centred, flexible and responsive to the needs of individuals and employers. We believe this is critical to help people access fair work and help them achieve their potential in an inclusive and fair economy.

The Fair Work Convention's Fair Work Framework[77] describes fair work as work that "offers all individuals an effective voice, opportunity, security, fulfilment and respect. Fair Work balances the rights and responsibilities of employers and workers, and generates benefits for individuals, organisations and society."

Through our Fair Work agenda we are working to embed fair work within and across Scottish workplaces to achieve the aim for Scotland to be a world-leading Fair Work nation by 2025.

4.4.2 Policies to support carers to enter or re-enter employment
When caring roles end or change, carers can find it difficult to re-enter the workforce after long absences. Many of them can be older women. We support a range of work to support carers to return to work and to promote positive working practices which will encourage them to do so. Careers advice and guidance
Many of those who have been out of work for some time may require careers advice to help them consider their options. Careers advice and guidance is available from Skills Development Scotland[78], with online services and offices across Scotland. For those who feel they will need additional support to get into work, Fair Start Scotland[79] is available in every area and offers pre-work support for up to 18 months and in work support for up to 12 months. Parental Employment support fund
The Scottish Government will also shortly launch its Parental Employment Support Fund which will commence in November 2019. This aims to help reduce child poverty by providing tailored support to those parents who face considerable barriers returning to or progressing in work, with a particular focus on our priority families, including carers. Women returners
We know that that many women struggle to return to work after a career break due to a lack of access to flexible working to support caring commitments. As a result they can find their job choices limited to lower paid, part time work and can experience pay inequality, underemployment, job insecurity, and a lack of opportunities for development and career progression. The Scottish Government announced that we will invest £5 million over the next 3 years to support around 2000 women returning toworkfollowing a career break. The programme is currently in development and information on progress will be available via this website[80]. Young carers and young adult carers
Young people can find it difficult to transition from education to training and work while balancing an ongoing caring role. The following policies are intended to support them to make this shift:

  • The 21 regional Developing the Young Workforce (DYW) groups connect employers with young people who are still at school and college. The groups' role is to maximise the number of young people engaging in meaningful work experience and encourage employers to offer opportunities to young people facing additional barriers and to those who may need more flexibility.
  • Following recommendations from the "Young Adult Carers and Modern Apprenticeships" report of August 2018, Skills Development Scotland actively promote Carer Positive practices, flexible working, best practice and support channels to Employers, Apprentices, Training Providers, Schools, Parents, Local Partners and internal staff. In line with these recommendations Modern Apprenticeships (MAs) are available on a flexible basis, with ultimate responsibility resting with the employer to enact this. Additionally for those still in school, undertaking a Foundation Apprenticeship whilst in the senior phase of school can give you a head start in completing your Modern Apprenticeship." Policies which support carers to remain in employment
Employers have the opportunity to play a unique role in promoting awareness and openness about caring roles. This can encourage people to identify themselves as carers and seek preventative support at an early stage, long before they reach crisis. Carer friendly policies, awareness and access to flexible working arrangements within an organisation can support carers to remain in work alongside a fluctuating caring role, benefitting both the employer and the carer. Carer Positive employer accreditation scheme
Carer Positive[81] is an accreditation scheme that recognises those employers who put in place flexible and supportive working practices for people juggling work with unpaid care. It promotes the benefits for businesses, individual carers, society and the wider economy of supporting unpaid carers to remain in work alongside caring.

Carer Positive is free for employers of all sizes, across the public, private and third sectors. The requirements for accreditation are designed to be flexible and proportionate to the size and nature of the organisation involved. The scheme offers three levels of accreditation; Engaged, Established and Exemplary. These reflect the different stages an employer may be at on their journey to supporting carers in their workforce. Carer Positive is funded by Scottish Government and delivered on our behalf by Carers Scotland. Fair Work Action Plan
Scotland's Fair Work Action Plan[82], published in February 2019, sets out the strategic approach the Scottish Government will take – working across government and with delivery partners and stakeholders to embed fair work as the norm in every Scottish workplace. Our approach is three-fold:

  • supporting employers to adopt fair work practices;
  • delivering Fair Work to a diverse and inclusive workforce; and
  • embedding Fair Work across the Scottish Government.

The Action Plan recognises the challenges many carers face in sustaining a job and commits to promoting awareness and flexibility for unpaid carers in the workplace through Carer Positive. A Fairer Scotland for Women: Gender Pay Gap Action Plan
Published in March 2019 the Plan[83] aims to tackle the gender pay gap through a range of actions. One of the primary causes of the gender pay gap is unpaid care, which is still provided disproportionately by women. We know that flexible employment practices aimed at supporting carers who juggle work and caring responsibilities can play a large role in addressing gender inequality. A number of actions within the action plan are aimed at increasing the opportunities for well-paid flexible and part-time work, and towards improving employment practices to meet the needs of workers who are also carers:

  • We are providing £159,000 from 2019-2020 to Family Friendly Working Scotland Partnership to support and promote the development of flexible and family friendly workplaces. The 'Happy to Talk Flexible Working'[84] strapline can be used by employers in their recruitment materials to ensure that carers know that the employer offers flexible working practices.
  • The Scottish Government is funding a feasibility study for a 'Centre for Flexible Work' for Scotland. This Centre would explore new ways to increase the availability of quality, flexible work in Scotland.
  • We are also providing £800,000 to the Workplace Equality Fund, which supports employers to deliver innovative solutions to overcome workforce inequalities, including pay gaps and to encourage employers to embed Fair Work practices within their workplaces.
  • We will also fund the Women Returners Programme mentioned above.

4.5 Social isolation and loneliness
There are groups in society that go above and beyond what is expected, sometimes at the expense of their own immediate needs and wellbeing. Scotland's carers deserve to be able to live a full life, which includes time for socially connecting. Research from Carers UK suggests that "8 out of 10 carers have felt lonely or socially isolated as a result of looking after a loved one". That is why another key part of our work is driving progress to combat social isolation and loneliness. Recently we launched "A Connected Scotland", our national strategy for tackling these issues and building social connections[85]

The Government has an important role in tackling these issues, and we will be working to create the conditions for change and take a cross-governmental approach. A Ministerial Steering Group, chaired by the Minister for Older People and Equalities, will drive Scottish Government cross portfolio work and oversight of the strategy.

We have also established a National Implementation Group, also chaired by the Minister for Older People and Equalities which comprises key organisations with a role in driving progress to embed a cross-sectoral approach through the development and implementation of a shared delivery plan for the strategy. To support the successful implementation of the strategy, we're committing up to £1 million of investment over the next two years to help build our collective capacity and to pilot innovative approaches.

4.6 Transport
Our National Transport Strategy[86] sets our ambitions and priorities for Scotland's transport system over the next 20 years. The vision is that We will have a sustainable, inclusive and accessible transport system helping to deliver a healthier, more prosperous and fairer Scotland for communities, business and visitors.

The strategy's equality priority recognises transport plays an important role in delivering a fully inclusive society in which disabled people have the right to equal access within their communities. However, barriers to travel can create considerable problems for people with disabilities and their carers who often accompany them on public transport.

The Going Further - Scotland's Accessible Travel Framework[87] ten year plan focuses on improving the door to door journeys for people with disabilities and removing the barriers which prevent them from accessing travel. For carers, this will assist in addressing social isolation of the people that they care for.

The overarching aim of the Framework is that disabled people in Scotland can travel with the same freedom, choice, dignity and opportunity as other citizens. The first Delivery Plan[88] was published in June 2019. The Scottish Government is committed to over £1 billion of investment in public, and sustainable transport options. Progress so far includes:

  • investment of £202.1 million in 2018-19 in the National Concessionary Travel scheme[89] which offers free bus travel to elderly and disabled people through the National Entitlement Card.
  • a commitment to extend the National Concessionary Travel Scheme to provide companion cards for eligible disabled children under age 5. This will provide the benefits of free bus travel to about 3,000 families and carers each year.
  • a commitment to introduce free bus travel for recipients of the Young Carer Grant during financial year 2020/21. (see also section 5.6.5).