The Scottish Government has an overall aim that carers are supported on a consistent basis to allow them to continue caring, if that is their wish, in good health and wellbeing, allowing for a life of their own outside of caring. Social Security delivers one aspect of this overall government approach to supporting carers, including through the provision of Carer's Allowance Supplement (CAS).
CAS is a temporary top-up of Carer's Allowance until the Scottish Government takes on full delivery of the benefit, which is currently still delivered by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) on behalf of the Scottish Government. CAS is paid in two lump sums per year (each of £226.20 in 2019/20). The first payment was made in September/October 2018.
CAS has two main policy objectives:
1. To improve outcomes for carers by providing some additional financial support. Specifically, to impact positively on:
- Carers' finances
- Carers' quality of life (including physical health, mental health and wellbeing, and feelings of control and empowerment)
2. To recognise the contribution that carers make to society.
This evaluation aims to provide learning about the overall implementation of the benefit and the extent to which the objectives of CAS have been met. In doing so, it can also assess the likely contribution of CAS to wider long-term outcomes for carers, which take account of Scottish Government interventions outside of social security that are also designed to support carers. These outcomes are outlined later in the report and map on closely to those that were developed by Scottish Government officials with the Carer Benefit Advisory Group and those that are outlined in the Carers strategic policy statement: consultation document.
The implementation of CAS
Since eligibility for CAS is reliant on receipt of Carer's Allowance, and the payment is automatic, the take-up is by definition 100 per cent (though the take-up of Carer's Allowance in Scotland is unknown).
CAS clients generally found the letter from Social Security Scotland confirming the payment helpful and had received the payment when they had expected to, after receiving the letter.
Levels of awareness about CAS amongst recipients was high. Recipients generally knew when it had last arrived, how much it was, and were able to at least speculate at the reasons why it was introduced by the Scottish Government with some accuracy.
Further information on carer experience of the Scottish social security system generally, and of Social Security Scotland more specifically, is still being collected, and will be reported on separately.
Impact of Carer's Allowance Supplement on carer finances
Typically, recipients liked the current payment schedule (two lump sums per year).
Carers who were struggling the most financially felt the biggest impact – whether they had spent it on treats or trips away, which they would not have otherwise been able to have, or whether they had spent it on essential household expenses, which they would otherwise have struggled to pay for. Carers who were financially comfortable but had spent it on treats such as trips or outings also felt a benefit, as they were unlikely to have had those enjoyable experiences without the payment. The least impact was felt by carers who had spent it on general household needs but who already had enough money to pay for these things.
Overall, while carers were grateful for the payment and could identify positive impacts, they tended to say that the payment had not helped their day-to-day finances – they felt they only benefitted during the months that CAS arrived.
Impact of Carer's Allowance Supplement on carer quality of life
Typically, CAS has helped improve carers' mental health and wellbeing a little. It had a positive impact on relieving money worries around the months carers received the payment, and had given them "a wee lift". In more exceptional cases, its impact on mental health and wellbeing had been transformative. This was in cases where it had enabled carers in great financial difficulty to pay off debts or where it had been used towards a trip away when carers felt they were close to breaking point.
There were mixed views on the impact of CAS on carers' sense of control and empowerment. It had made the biggest difference to those who were struggling the most financially by helping them to feel more on top of their finances and more prepared for upcoming expenses. Others thought it had made little difference overall.
CAS has generally not had a big impact on carers' physical health - though there were a few examples of it being used to support physical health.
Impact of Carer's Allowance Supplement on carer feelings of recognition for the work that they do
The introduction of CAS had made carers feel more recognised and valued by the Scottish Government. It showed the government had thought about them, felt like an acknowledgement and a "thank you", and showed their work had value.
However, CAS was not perceived to have raised awareness or the profile of carers among the general public and had not, therefore, made them feel more recognised or valued by society in general.
Contribution of CAS to wider policy outcomes
The high-level outcomes that the Scottish Government are trying to influence with regards to carers, such as improved health and wellbeing, improved quality of life, increased feelings of control and empowerment, and increased societal recognition, will take time to determine and are affected by a range of factors of which social security is only one.
As a result it is difficult to measure and attribute change in these outcomes to a single benefit (such as CAS). Furthermore, even if measurement was possible, the impact that around £450 per annum could reasonably be expected to make to these long-term outcomes should also be borne in mind.
However, we can reasonably expect that if success against short and medium-term policy outcomes has been achieved, then this could contribute (to some extent) to better outcomes in the future.
Implications for future policy development
The research findings demonstrate that CAS has gone some way to meeting its overall aims: to improve outcomes for carers by providing extra financial support and to provide greater recognition of the essential societal contribution that carers make.
It was very clear from the research that carers appreciated the payments and thought they should continue. Although it was a more exceptional experience, the transformative impact that CAS has had for certain carers should not be overlooked.
While CAS has positively impacted on carer finances, carer quality of life, and on carer feelings of recognition to some extent, it is accepted that more significant impact on the wider governmental outcomes of improving carer health and wellbeing, quality of life and societal recognition, may require different actions to supplement financial support for carers and/or higher levels of financial support.
However, CAS should not be considered in isolation and the Scottish Government has a range of interventions designed to contribute to achieving these in time, which are detailed in the body of the report.
The issues highlighted in this evaluation will be considered when developing social security for carers, particularly the Scottish replacement for Carer's Allowance, which will be developed to complement existing and planned interventions to support carers at a wider government level.