Disability and Carer Benefits Expert Advisory Group: Scottish Carer's Assistance - response from Ministers

Letter from the former Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People to the chair of the Disability and Carer Benefits Expert Advisory Group.

Dr. Jim McCormick
Chair: Disability and Carers Benefits Expert Advisory Group
c/o Scottish Government

22 March 2021

Dear Jim,

Thank you for your letter of 23 December 2020 and your advice and recommendations on Scottish Carer’s Assistance. Please accept my apologies for the delay in responding.

I am grateful for the work of the Group in considering our paper on Scottish Carer’s Assistance, which set out a number of key questions about the future of this support. Your expertise and recommendations have been incredibly valuable in supporting the development of our vision for the future of Scottish Carer’s Assistance. I am pleased to confirm that I am able to fully accept Recommendations 1 to 6 regarding our overall approach to Scottish Carer’s Assistance, and have provided further detail below.

Recommendations 7 to 12 relate more to the detailed design of this support and it is our intention to further consider these as we take forward our work, and to return to the Group on these points in future.

You set out under Recommendation 1 the importance of the proposed outcomes for Scottish Carer’s Assistance being shaped by what matters to the people who will receive it. We have developed proposed aims for this support based on what we have heard through a range of work and research with carers and stakeholders, incuding your advice, work with our Carer Benefits Advisory Group, and what we have learned from our Experience Panels. These aims are set out in the attached discussion paper, which we are also sharing more widely with stakeholders.

The aims reflect what we have heard about the important role of the benefit, as you point out, in providing recognition for the caring role, and to replace income where carers are less able to take on paid work. In the paper we also recognise the constraints on how different Scottish Carer’s Assistance can be from Carer’s Allowance in the short and medium term, in light of the importance of ensuring a safe and secure transition for carers already in receipt of support from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), and the complex links between the existing benefit and support which will remain reserved.

The consultation on our draft aims will take the form of discussion events with stakeholders as well as further research with our Experience Panels, and carers more widely. Our intention is to hear the views of carers, and the organisations who support them, on these proposed aims and to finalise the aims based on their feedback.

My expectation is that the final aims developed through this consultation will then be used as part of an options assessment process to guide decision making on proposals for Scottish Carer’s Assistance. There would then be a further public consultation on the proposals identified through the options assessment process, before regulations are brought forwardfor Scottish Carer’s Assistance.

I recognise that the next steps in the process following the enclosed discussion paper will be a matter for a future administration. However, given the importance of continuing the work to develop Scottish Carer’s Assistance, we are sharing this document now to set out what we have learned and allow discussions on the future of this support to progress. Officials would be happy to attend a future meeting of the Group to talk through the discussion paper and the associated plans for engagement with you in more detail should you wish.

Your advice also highlights at Recommendation 2 the importance of taking a human rights based approach to the development of Scottish Carer’s Assistance, and this is absolutely our approach right across social security, as reflected in our Charter.

In taking this approach we will be guided by the ‘PANEL principles’. We will also take into account our obligations under relevant United Nations treaties, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERC), the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

A key part of our human rights approach will be ensuring that we are engaging with carers, support organisations, and more widely, not just on the draft aims we are sharing today, but throughout the detailed design work of this support and once it is live, to allow us to continually improve it to meet people’s needs. Our Charter and the scrutiny of our work through the Scottish Commission on Social Security (SCoSS) and the Scottish Parliament, also ensure we are held accountable for how we develop and deliver this support, and how well it works for the people of Scotland.

Another important aspect of our human rights based approach will be to ensure that people are aware of their rights and supported to take up what they are entitled to through social security. Our work to maximise take up of Scottish Carer’s Assistance will be informed by what we have learned to date through the first Benefit Take-up strategy, published in October 2019, and the work carried with public and third sector organisations to identify what works to increase take up of support. As highlighted in the discussion paper this will include ensuring our services are available in places carers already visit, and building contacts with local trusted organisations through our local delivery work. The approach will also take account of emerging new practice on engaging with carers as a result of the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, and the learning from this.

Scottish Carer’s Assistance will also benefit from a range of work already carried out to take a rights-based approach to the development of processes for challenging decisions within our system. These processes have been designed with people with experience of the DWP system, to support people to access justice, making sure they have a choice about whether to challenge a decision.

I also recognise, as described in Recommendation 3, the importance of considering the interplay between social care and support for unpaid carers, and the need to consider this as part of our work to develop Scottish Carer’s Assistance.

Following the publication of the final report of the Independent Review of Adult Social Care, we are at the start of a journey to improve adult social care in Scotland. Implementation of many of the recommendations will be a matter for the next administration, but we recognise that reform of social care is long overdue, and it will be important to make a start on this now. Scottish Ministers have accepted the principle of introducing a National Care Service to ensure consistency, quality of care and equity for those who rely on social care support.

As you will be aware, the Review also made a number of recommendations that relate directly to unpaid carers, including in relation to support, representation in local planning, and involvement in decision making, as well as calling for a review of the financial support available. The Review also highlighted the importance of ensuring unpaid carers can access education, training and employment where they wish to, which echoes what we have heard elsewhere, and is reflected in our aims for Scottish Carer’s Assistance. In our discussions with carers and stakeholders and our work to develop Scottish Carer’s Assistance we will explore the relationship between this and social care support, and work with colleagues elsewhere in Scottish Government and public services to consider how these elements can work together better to improve outcomes for carers.

More widely, the introduction of Scottish Carer’s Assistance provides us with an important opportunity to make stronger links between social security and wider support for carers. As highlighted in our discussion paper, joining up support will be a priority in delivering Scottish Carer’s Assistance, given the range of support available and the importance of ensuring carers can get the help they need, particularly in key areas, such as access to education, training or employment, and at key stages in their lives, such as when a caring role comes to an end. Our work on developing the aims and delivering Scottish Carer’s Assistance will involve a wide range of colleagues within Scottish Government, wider public services and other organisations, to ensure we are making the most of this opportunity to improve outcomes for carers, and can make a real difference to how support is provided from the launch of our new benefit.

As part of our human rights approach, I absolutely recognise, as you have pointed out in Recommendations 4 and 5, the importance of considering the equality dimensions of developing Scottish Carer’s Assistance, and working to address the gaps in our current data. Our intention in carrying out engagement work on our discussion paper is to reach a widerrange of carers and stakeholders to improve our understanding of and address gaps in data, as well as the equality impacts of the current support, and to identify where we can we can make changes so that Scottish Carer’s Assistance works better for the diverse range of carers and their families. Within this, we will take into account your helpful observations in respect of the Equality Impact Assessments for Young Carer Grant.

I also appreciate the points made in Recommendations 6 and 11 of your advice regarding the need to revisit in detail the issues you have raised on the interactions between the current Carer’s Allowance benefit and the reserved system, and around recognition for variations in care. We will of course be carrying out detailed work with the DWP to ensure that our systems are joined up and can work seamlessly together. We would also very much welcome further advice from the Group on these issues, and we can come back to the Group with a paper on proposals for Scottish Carer’s Assistance, including consideration of the interactions with wider support and recognition for variations in care, ahead of the public consultation.

Recommendations 7 to 12 relate to specific aspects of the existing Carer’s Allowance benefit, including the current eligibility criteria. Your advice on these points has fed into the development of the draft aims we have set out in our discussion paper. As set out above, it is our intention to use the final aims developed through the consultation on this paper to assess a number proposals for change through Scottish Carer’s Assistance.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank you and the Group for your advice on proposals for providing additional support for those caring for more than one disabled child, currently known as the Carer’s Additional Child Payment (CACP). Given the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on overall social security programme, and the timings for delivery of this support, we are now exploring whether this can be delivered as part of Scottish Carer’s Assistance, rather than as a separate benefit. We are considering the Group’srecommendations on Carer’s Additional Child Payment as we take forward this work and we will be able to come back with a more detailed response to your advice in due course.

Thank you again for your work on Scottish Carer’s Assistance, I am grateful for your advice and expertise in developing this new support.

Yours sincerely,

Shirley Anne Somerville


T: 0300 244 4000

E: scottish.ministers@gov.scot

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