This section introduces Carer's Allowance Supplement (CAS), the rationale behind its implementation and the overall evaluation aims relevant to this report.
Carer's Allowance Supplement Description
The Social Security powers that have been devolved through the Scotland Act 2016 give the Scottish Parliament responsibility for £2.8 billion of social security expenditure (around 15% of total benefit expenditure in Scotland). The Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018 then gives the Scottish Government and Parliament the authority to make legislation and deliver the social security powers devolved by the Scotland Act 2016, enabling the Scottish Government to establish a new social security system to deliver the devolved benefits, which are intended to be better targeted at Scotland and based on dignity, fairness and respect.
Provisions for CAS are included in the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018. 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). One is paid in early summer (generally in June), and one in winter (generally in December), based on eligibility at specific eligibility dates in April and October. CAS was initially set at a level which would raise Carer's Allowance to the equivalent of the then-current rate of Jobseeker's Allowance for those 25 years old and over. However following uprating the combined payment now exceeds the rate of Jobseeker's Allowance. The first payment was made in September/October 2018.
Carers in Scotland who receive Carer's Allowance do not need to apply for CAS – if they are resident in Scotland, and in receipt of Carer's Allowance on the qualifying dates, they will receive the Supplement automatically. To be entitled to Carer's Allowance, carers must meet certain conditions. For example, they must be over 16 years old, not be in full-time education, not earn more than £128 per week after tax, and provide at least 35 hours of unpaid care per week to someone in receipt of certain disability benefits.
An additional Coronavirus Carer's Allowance Supplement payment of £230.10 was paid alongside the June 2020 CAS payment in recognition of the additional financial pressures and caring responsibilities resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent lockdown. However, the research informing this evaluation was conducted before this payment was delivered and so this evaluation will not address it.
Background to the introduction of Carer's Allowance Supplement
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 only one aspect of this overall government approach to supporting carers, including through the provision of CAS.
While taking on a caring role can be a positive and rewarding experience, it can bring costs in terms of carers' health, finances, career, and personal relationships. Recipients of Carer's Allowance are also more likely to live in households that are in the bottom half of the income distribution.
The Carers UK report State of Caring 2019 indicated that 81% of carers who responded to its survey had felt lonely or socially isolated as a result of their caring, 61% said their physical health had declined due to caring responsibilities, and 39% described themselves as 'struggling to make ends meet'.
The 2015 Scottish Government report Scotland's Carers showed that 32% of carers felt that caring had a negative effect on their health, and that carers are more likely to have a long-term illness or disability than the general population. The report also drew on data from Scotland's Census 2011, which found that the more care a person provided, the more likely they were to report 'bad' or 'very bad' health, regardless of age. For example, 3% of those caring for less than 19 hours a week reported 'bad' or 'very bad' health, compared to 14% of those caring for 50 or more hours a week. Those providing 35+ hours of care were also more likely to have poor mental wellbeing scores.
It was in recognition of the negative outcomes unpaid carers can experience, their essential contribution to society, and the fact that Carer's Allowance is the lowest of all UK working age benefits, that the Scottish Government introduced CAS.
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.
The Scottish Government published their approach to evaluating the first of the devolved social security benefits, including CAS, in November 2019.
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 government outcomes for carers which take account of wider Scottish Government interventions outside of social security which are also designed to support carers.
Specifically, the evaluation objectives are to:
- 1. Evaluate the extent to which CAS achieved its policy objectives
- 2. Assess the likely contribution of CAS to wider long-term government outcomes for carers
- 3. Discuss any implications for future policy development
The findings will provide groundwork for policy improvement and feed into the development of future social security for carers, particularly the Scottish replacement to Carer's Allowance.