Publication - Correspondence

Disability and Carers Benefits Expert Advisory Group - Carer’s Additional Child Payment: advice

An email to the Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People from Dr. Jim McCormick, chair of the Disability and Carers Benefits Expert Advisory Group, regarding the Carer’s Additional Child Payment (CACP).

Published:
20 Dec 2021
Disability and Carers Benefits Expert Advisory Group - Carer’s Additional Child Payment: advice
Work on Carer’s Additional Child Payment was paused as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The Scottish Government has since provided updates to the group to advise that it is now planned that this support will be delivered as part of Scottish Carer’s Assistance (the Scottish replacement for Carer’s Allowance) and that we are considering how best to extend this to those caring for multiple people of any age. As part of this a formal response to this advice will be provided in future and then published here.

To: Shirley-Anne Somerville, Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People

By e-mail

27 March 2020

Dear Shirley-Anne,

Carer’s Additional Child Payment

In your letter to the Advisory Group sent 12 Feb 2020, you asked for advice on the new support for carers of more than one severely disabled child, currently named Carer’s Additional Child Payment (CACP).

We welcome the commitment by the Scottish Government to ensure safe and secure delivery of the newly-devolved benefits, and to improve the claiming process for all recipients. We understand that our advice may incur risks, implications and challenges for the Scottish Government. These will be made explicit in the current advice note and we aim, where possible, to signpost a proposed solution.

We have worked with officials to ensure that our advice is informed by information available at this time and relevant to the current policy landscape. In addition to officials attending our most recent quarterly meeting on 27 February 2020, a smaller contingent of DACBEAG met with officials and the Carer Benefit Advisory Group (CBAG) as part of a focused CACP subgroup on 14 January 2020 for a more in-depth review of the current policy and programme thinking. We would like to especially thank the officials who worked with us on this policy area. Their input was clear, concise, and greatly aided us in focusing this advice.

Clearly, information and the current policy landscape may change in ways that cannot be foreseen at this time, so the advice we give now is with the caveat that this too may change in light of developments.

We set out below some issues arising from our discussions to which we wish to draw to your attention. Our recommendations are summarised at the end of this letter.

Eligibility criteria

First, we would like to highlight some issues regarding the eligibility criteria the Scottish Government is currently proposing.

Age of cared for person

We welcome further support for carers of multiple people. However, we question the decision to limit this increase in support to those who are caring for more than one child. While it is clear that carers of severely disabled children face significant impacts from their caring roles, the impacts of caring on those who care for multiple people, regardless of the cared for person’s age, are extraordinary. In our view, the Scottish Government has not adequately explained why those who are caring for multiple severely disabled adults are not deserving of further support.

Not having a clear, easy to explain, reason for increasing the entitlement of one group of carers at the exclusion of others could make this well-meaning policy vulnerable to misunderstanding, concerns about inequality, and risks of alienating certain groups of carers. Moreover, explaining this decision to carers will mostly fall on those currently supporting them, especially third sector carers centres. If the Scottish Government is unwilling or unable to extend this increase in support to all carers of multiple people, it must be honest and clear about its reasons and equip carer support services with the tools necessary to explain this decision.

Therefore, we recommend:

Recommendation 1

The Scottish Government should increase support for all carers of multiple severely disabled people regardless of the age of the cared for person.

Recommendation 2

If the Scottish Government does not extend support to all carers of multiple severely disabled people, it must clearly articulate its reasons and adequately equip support services to explain this reasoning to carers.

If the Scottish Government is committed to increasing support only for those who care for multiple disabled children, we suggest it revaluates its decision to simply stop entitlement to this support when the child turns 18.

The benefit landscape for children is already complex and has a multitude of age requirements. Making this age requirement inflexible and not allowing for increases in age for qualifying young people (as it is with Child Benefit or the child element of Universal Credit) will add to this complexity. Additionally, a carer’s responsibilities rarely end when the person they care for turns 18. Indeed, these care responsibilities can often increase when the care needs of the cared for person become more complex as they get older. Also, a carer’s own health and capacity in relation to the tasks required may well lessen over time. Finally, this age requirement creates a cliff edge in entitlement, which has the potential to make an already difficult transition period even more difficult.

We suggest that this age requirement should align more closely with the criteria set out for Child Benefit. That is, while we agree with expanding eligibility to those under 18, we think entitlement should be further extended to include qualifying young people as set out by part 2 of The Child Benefit (General) Regulations 2006. This would extend eligibility to some carers who, for example, are caring for someone who is under 20 years old and is in full-time non-advanced education, among others.

This would make for a more consistent transition for many carers as it would more closely align with Child Benefit, Guardian’s Allowance, Child Tax Credit, and the child element of Universal Credit. Also, it may make things easier for Social Security Scotland (the Agency) to administer, as they could check if the child is receiving a qualifying benefit and meets the age requirements (at least preliminarily) by checking the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and Her Majesty’s Revenues and Customs (HMRC) records.

Recommendation 3

The eligibility conditions of CACP should extend entitlement to include carers of qualifying young people as this would increase consistency and could simplify administration.

“Receipt of Carer’s Allowance”

We believe the decision to limit entitlement to CACP only to those who are in “receipt of Carer’s Allowance” as opposed to those who are “entitled to” it or the carer element of Universal Credit is problematic. This decision unfairly limits eligibility for people who have underlying entitlement to Carer’s Allowance but do not actually receive payments due to the overlapping benefit rules. This means many of those receiving state retirement pensions, some bereavement benefits, Maternity Allowance, or contributory unemployment benefits will not be eligible for this extra help even though there is no difference in their caring responsibilities. This is especially troubling considering many people in these groups will already be experiencing a particularly difficult time (e.g. kinship carers who have reached pension age, people who are recently unemployed, people who have recently lost a partner, and pregnant women).

Because carers must apply for CACP, this policy is more deliverable than it would have been for the Carer’s Allowance Supplement (CAS). CAS was focused on providing a simple and quick way to deliver an increase in Carer’s Allowance (utilising the information provided from the DWP on Carer’s Allowance in payment on a given date), thus those with underlying entitlements were excluded. As CACP will require an application, carers will be able to provide information on underlying entitlements to prove eligibility.

This same reasoning applies to those who are in receipt of the carer element of Universal Credit. While people in this position can also receive Carer’s Allowance, many may not apply because it is deducted pound for pound from their Universal Credit award, or because they do not know they can apply for both. It will take a considerable communications effort to ensure everyone in Scotland who is eligible for both the carer element of Universal Credit and Carer’s Allowance makes the necessary claims to entitle them to CACP. And despite such an effort, there will undoubtedly be those who still will not know to apply for both. Therefore, in addition to the communications campaign, extending CACP eligibility to those who are in receipt of the carer element of Universal Credit could address this issue. 

Moreover, there are those who are eligible to receive the carer element of Universal Credit but are not eligible for Carer’s Allowance: those whose earnings exceed the threshold used in the definition of “gainfully employed” for Carer’s Allowance but are low enough to entitle them to Universal Credit. We can see no reason to exclude this group from CACP.

At this point in time, we do not know the scale of these last two issues. That is, we do not know how many people would miss out on CACP due to the concerns discussed regarding Universal Credit claimants and those who are considered “gainfully employed”. We would be happy to engage further on these questions with officials, especially if the numbers potentially affected are small.

That said, our preferred approach is, with the caveat that we can discuss further if provided more information:

Recommendation 4

Eligibility to CACP should be extended to anyone who is entitled to Carer’s Allowance or the carer element of Universal Credit, regardless of whether they actually receive it.

People caring for severely disabled children and adults

We are not convinced by the reasoning used to decide that where a claimant is caring for both multiple disabled children or young people and at least one disabled adult, they will only be eligible for one payment of CACP for their caring role for the first two children or young people.

The rational put forward is that otherwise people who are claiming Carer’s Allowance for an adult and also care for two disabled children will be entitled to two awards for CACP while someone who is claiming Carer’s Allowance for a child but also cares for another disabled child and an adult will only be entitled to one. This is because carers are only entitled to CACP for children they do not receive Carer’s Allowance for.

So for example, in the illustration below, Carer A would be entitled to CACP for two children, while Carer B would only be entitled to CACP for one child:

 

Receives CA for

Does not receive CA for

Does not receive CA for

Number of CACP awards entitled to

Carer A

Adult

Child

Child

2

Carer B

Child

Adult

Child

1

Therefore, the reasoning goes, without this policy, carers would be incentivised to move their Carer’s Allowance claim so that they maximise their entitlement.

However, this is already the case for several benefit interactions. That is, families often need to apply for different benefits in different permutations to maximise their entitlement. Therefore, we see no reason to limit entitlement for everyone to address what is, in our view, not a real problem.

Recommendation 5

Carers should be entitled to CACP for each severely disabled child or young person they care for, regardless of whether they also care for a severely disabled adult.

Applications and renewals

Qualifying benefit rules

The qualifying benefit rules are complex and can mean that someone’s Carer’s Allowance claim is treated as being made on the day the person they care for is awarded their qualifying disability benefit (see Reg 6. of The Social Security (Claims and Payments) Regulations 1987). This can mean a claim for Carer’s Allowance is treated as being made several months before the actual application and result in a significant backdated payment of Carer’s Allowance for the claimant. We believe these rules should be integrated into the CACP rules, to ensure the annual CACP renewal period begins when the Carer’s Allowance claim is treated as being made. This would ensure parity with the Carer’s Allowance rules and mean those who, for example, have to wait for a lengthy appeal process to decide disability benefit eligibility for the person they care for are not disadvantaged. 

Recommendation 6

The rules for CACP should incorporate the qualifying benefit rules to allow claims to be treated as being made at an earlier date. 

Renewals

We believe further thinking needs to be done around the annual renewal process. We understand that if someone is eligible at the time of application, they will receive a full award for the year. If the claimant has a change of circumstance that means they are no longer entitled after their award, but not before their annual review date, no part of that award will be recovered. These are welcome decisions.

However, we do not agree with the Scottish Government’s current thinking regarding what happens when there is a change of carer for the same cared for person between a CACP award and a review date. We understand the current policy is that a claim for CACP can only be made once per year in respect of any one cared for person. We believe this creates undesirable outcomes. For example, in instances of relationship breakdown, perhaps due to domestic violence, where one member of the family takes the cared for person with them and takes on the caring role, this policy would mean the new carer is not eligible to claim support until the most recent award ends. We believe that they should be.

To address this, we believe the Scottish Government should consider more regular payments. Making payments more frequently would mean there are more opportunities for changes of circumstances to be reflected in awards. The more frequent, the better reflective the award will be. We understand that programme realities are driving decisions in this regard, and requiring renewal applications more frequently will cause its own issues for both the Agency and claimants. Therefore, we suggest six monthly awards may be a reasonable compromise.

Recommendation 7

Awards for CACP should be six monthly as opposed to annually, to ensure that changes of circumstances are better reflected in awards.

Annual renewals also raise a possible issue for those caring for two or more disabled children. Namely, that they will be subject to multiple renewal dates in the event that they claim CACP at different points for different children. This has the potential to cause confusion and difficulty for claimants. Combining multiple claims into a single renewal date for individual claimants could get around this issue. 

Recommendation 8

Consolidate multiple annual renewal dates into a single date for individual claimants caring for multiple children to simplify the renewal process.

Disregards

Our understanding is that this payment should be considered a small income supplement to improve quality of life, and not as earnings replacement. If this is the case, the Scottish Government must ensure that this payment is not treated as income for means-testing or discretionary benefits that take income into account. This includes making sure CACP is disregarded from the likes of means-tested benefits, discretionary hardship payments of Universal Credit, Jobseeker’s Allowance, and Employment and Support Allowance - particularly when claimants have been sanctioned, the Scottish Welfare Fund, college financial aid, financial assessments for local authority care packages, short break grant for carers, and childcare to name a few. This will ensure that carers are able to actually spend this payment as intended, and keep it from simply being absorbed back into the public finances.

To do this, the Scottish Government should ensure all relevant guidance and regulations are properly amended. With regards to financial assessments for local authority care packages, we understand that the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) can provide guidance to local authorities on care package charging. However, ministers may need to mandate in regulations that CACP cannot be included as income in financial assessments for care charging.

Recommendation 9

The Scottish Government should ensure that CACP is completely disregarded for purposes of means-testing other benefits, grants, financial aid, and care packages. To do this, the Scottish Government should ensure all relevant guidance and regulations are properly amended.

Communication and take up

How CACP is communicated to potential claimants will be key to its success. We discuss some relevant considerations below.

Amount

While the equivalent of £10 per week is welcome, it is a very modest amount when compared to the extra work and costs caring for multiple disabled children entails. Therefore, being clear about the purpose of making this payment will be especially important.

We feel that the communications regarding the Young Carer Grant - that it is a small amount to help improve quality of life - could be used as a model for communicating CACP. There must be a clear recognition that this is not an effort to fairly compensate carers for the work they do or value they add to society.

Recommendation 10

Communications regarding CACP must be clear about the purpose of making this payment.

Promotion

We welcome the decision not to specifically define care for purposes of CACP eligibility. We also agree that because CACP is only available to people already in receipt of Carer’s Allowance, there is less danger of these people not claiming CACP because they don’t consider themselves a carer for benefit purposes. However, we still believe there are many people who do not claim Carer’s Allowance despite their significant caring roles. Indeed, the Scottish Government’s own benefit take-up strategy document suggests as few as 65% people who meet the eligibility requirements for Carer’s Allowance are actually receiving it (Benefit Take-up Strategy October 2019, pg. 38). Therefore, the Scottish Government should use communications around CACP to clarify and promote carer’s assistance generally to all potentially eligible carers, not just those currently in receipt of Carer’s Allowance.

Recommendation 11

The Scottish Government should use communications promoting CACP to promote take-up of carer’s assistance generally, including to those who might be eligible for Carer’s Allowance but are not currently receiving it. 

We also want to ensure that the Scottish Government conducts a significant take up campaign for CACP amongst those who are already receiving Carer’s Allowance. We therefore suggest contacting all recipients of Carer’s Allowance to see if they care for any additional disabled children.

Recommendation 12

As part of its take up strategy for CACP, we suggest the Scottish Government contacts all recipients of Carer’s Allowance to see if they care for any additional severely disabled children.

Evaluation and beyond

Finally, we considered the future of CACP and wider issues.

Phasing

We understand that there is a consultation on carer’s assistance generally forthcoming. We also understand that when the Scottish Government develops its own 

version of what is currently Carer’s Allowance, there is scope to consider integrating CACP into that benefit as opposed to maintaining it as a separate application and award. These opportunities for improvements are welcome. However, we believe the Scottish Government must be clear about where CACP should be improved presently and not use future opportunities for change as a reason to delay improvements to CACP at this stage.

Recommendation 13

The Scottish government must commit to making CACP as good as it can be now, and not use opportunities for future changes as a reason for delaying improvements.

Evaluation

If one of the aims of CACP is to improve quality of life, evaluating CACP must use improvements to quality of life as a key standard of evaluation. Also, robust equalities data must be collected and used as part of this evaluation process. We have so far been disappointed with how equalities analysis has been used in the policy development of Scottish social security generally, and are committed to ongoing engagement with the Equality Unit. We hope the design and evaluation of CACP changes this trend. This evaluation must then be used to improve CACP as part of a continuous improvement process. 

If the Scottish Government chooses to limit CACP to those caring for people under the age of 18, it will be important to understand the equalities impact of such a decision.

We would like to offer our support when developing indicators for this evaluation process, as many of our members have expertise in this field. We would welcome further discussions with your officials in this regard.

Recommendation 14

The Scottish Government must use the stated purposes of CACP, including improving quality of life, as the key measures of success in evaluation. Equalities impacts should also be appropriately analysed. We would welcome discussing possible indicators with your officials. The outcomes of such evaluations must be used to continuously improve CACP.

Connect to wider issues

Social security does not exist in isolation. We welcome further support for carers like CACP, but believe it should be acknowledged that a £10 top up of a benefit that is inadequate in reflecting the value of unpaid care work fails to address the underlying issue that there is not enough support for carers generally in our society.

It cannot be right that people must give up careers to care for their loved ones. Problems with state provided social care must also be tackled if we are to fully address this issue, but this alone will not solve it. Improvements to accessible public transport, flexible working, education and housing support must be addressed if we are to ensure no one is forced to give up work due to caring responsibilities.

Therefore, working collaboratively with local authorities, the NHS, and other service and support providers is essential. Scotland’s caring needs will not be met by individuals or any agency working in isolation – we must work together to improve the lives of carers and the people they care for.

Recommendation 15

The Scottish Government must work closely with all relevant public, private, third sector, and community led organisations - including disabled peoples organisations and carers themselves - to establish a holistic approach to improving outcomes for carers and the people they care for.

Transition support

In this same vein, the Scottish Government should ensure that those who reach the end of their entitlement and the people they care for receive support when moving on to the next phase. This could include assistance to apply for working age disability and other relevant benefits or to apply for other support like the Independent Living Fund’s (ILF) transition fund, for example. This could similarly include linking to wider education, employment and skills support (e.g. Project Search for learning disabled people and other specialist providers). The Scottish Government could also consider developing its own discretionary fund, similar to ILF’s, to help carers and the people they care for during this transition. This joined up approach could greatly improve outcomes for those whose financial situation has the potential to change considerably.

We understand that we have made similar recommendations in the past, and you have explained that this more holistic approach may not be feasible for all Scottish benefit claimants. However, we believe that disabled people and carers should be prioritised for this sort of approach, and want to reiterate our support for such a strategy even if it starts on a smaller scale.

Recommendation 16

The Scottish Government should provide support to carers and the people they care for at the point they lose entitlement to CACP, especially with help to apply for other relevant benefits or grants and linking to wider education, employment and skills support. It should also consider developing its own discretionary fund to help individuals during this transition.

Recommendations

Please see below our key recommendations.

Recommendation 1

The Scottish Government should increase support for all carers of multiple severely disabled people regardless of the age of the cared for person. 

Recommendation 2

If the Scottish Government does not extend support to all carers of multiple severely disabled people, it must clearly articulate its reasons and adequately equip support services to explain this reasoning to carers. 

Recommendation 3

The eligibility conditions of CACP should extend entitlement to include carers of qualifying young people as this would increase consistency and could simplify administration.

Recommendation 4

Eligibility to CACP should be extended to anyone who is entitled to Carer’s Allowance or the carer element of Universal Credit, regardless of whether they actually receive it. 

Recommendation 5

Carers should be entitled to CACP for each severely disabled child or young person they care for, regardless of whether they also care for a severely disabled adult. 

Recommendation 6

The rules for CACP should incorporate the qualifying benefit rules to allow claims to be treated as being made at an earlier date. 

Recommendation 7

Awards for CACP should be six monthly as opposed to annually, to ensure that changes of circumstances are better reflected in awards. 

Recommendation 8

Consolidate multiple annual renewal dates into a single date for individual claimants caring for multiple children to simplify the renewal process. 

Recommendation 9

The Scottish Government should ensure that CACP is completely disregarded for purposes of means-testing other benefits, grants, financial aid, and care packages. To do this, the Scottish Government should ensure all relevant guidance and regulations are properly amended.

Recommendation 10

Communications regarding CACP must be clear about the purpose of making this payment. 

Recommendation 11

The Scottish Government should use communications promoting CACP to promote take-up of carer’s assistance generally, including to those who might be eligible for Carer’s Allowance but are not currently receiving it.

Recommendation 12

As part of its take up strategy for CACP, we suggest the Scottish Government contacts all recipients of Carer’s Allowance to see if they care for any additional severely disabled children.

Recommendation 13

The Scottish government must commit to making CACP as good as it can be now, and not use opportunities for future changes as a reason for delaying improvements. 

Recommendation 14

The Scottish Government must use the stated purposes of CACP, including improving quality of life, as the key measures of success in evaluation. Equalities impacts should also be appropriately analysed. We would welcome discussing possible indicators with your officials. The outcomes of such evaluations must be used to continuously improve CACP. 

Recommendation 15

The Scottish Government must work closely with all relevant public, private, third sector, and community led organisations - including disabled peoples organisations and carers themselves - to establish a holistic approach to improving outcomes for carers and the people they care for.

Recommendation 16

The Scottish Government should provide support to carers and the people they care for at the point they lose entitlement to CACP, especially with help to apply for other relevant benefits or grants and linking to wider education, employment and skills support. It should also consider developing its own discretionary fund to help individuals during this transition. 

I hope this is helpful. I look forward to your response and we would be pleased to discuss this further with officials.

With best wishes,

Dr. Jim McCormick

Chair