National carers strategy: executive summary
Unpaid care is vital to how social care is provided in Scotland, and the value of the dedication and expertise of carers cannot be overstated. This strategy sets out a range of actions to ensure they are supported fully in a joined up and cohesive way.
4. Social and Financial Inclusion
- That the social and economic contribution, impacts and scale of caring are recognised, understood and reflected in local and national policy making across all areas.
- Carers are able to access the financial support and assistance to which they are entitled.
- Carers are able to take up or maintain employment and education alongside caring if they wish to do so.
- Carers can participate in and are valued by their community and wider society.
Why this is important
For many people who provide unpaid care it is fulfilling and meaningful. However, without proper support, the demands of some caring situations can have a negative effect on a carer's life. People can find themselves worse off financially if, for example, they are unable to work full-time because of their caring responsibilities. Some carers can also struggle to have a life beyond caring. These issues do not affect carers evenly. Women carers are more likely than men to be unable to work, with knock-on effects on their income and social isolation, while carers in remote and rural areas can face challenges related to their location.
The social security benefits available to carers recognise that caring roles can impact on people's finances. Carer's Allowance, and its forthcoming replacement in Scotland, Scottish Carer's Assistance, while not a payment for care, provides some financial support and recognition for people who have limited their employment or study because of caring responsibilities. Unlike most other income replacement benefits, there are no work requirements, and it is not means tested, but there is a limit to the amount that those who receive it can earn. For those on low incomes, the benefit can be a passport to help with other outgoings, such as housing costs.
The interaction between caring responsibilities, a person's income and their ability to maintain connections and interests in addition to being a carer is complex. Social isolation can be a particular risk for carers given the extra responsibilities they have and the financial burden that often comes with caring. If someone has to reduce the hours they work or give up work altogether, it can have a severe financial impact, and can also increase their social isolation. More is needed to ensure that carers can lead full and balanced lives and are not forced into poverty or social isolation because of their caring responsibilities. We must address the underlying reasons why so many carers find themselves in financial hardship.
Helping to ensure that carers can balance their caring responsibilities with the ability to work, attend education and have a meaningful quality of life beyond caring is crucial. The impact of the pandemic has been particularly severe for many unpaid carers, and that is being compounded by the cost crisis. This is affecting everyone, but some people face particular challenges. From engaging with carers in remote and island communities, for example, we know they face increased barriers because of higher living costs and the greater distances to travel for caring or support.
Enabling people to provide care for their loved ones while leading rich and varied lives beyond their care responsibilities is fundamental to Scotland's wellbeing economy. It is at the heart of our Carers Strategy.
"It's a struggle managing financially especially now - I had to get a crisis loan from the Carers Centre to get food this week and I'm really worried about the summer holidays and how I am going to cope."
How we will achieve this
1. We will draw on responses to the Scottish Carer's Assistance consultation to shape future improvements to social security support for carers.
2. We will support people to receive what they are entitled to and work with a range of partners who have experience in benefit take-up, taking a 'lessons learned' approach on what works best.
3. We will run advertising campaigns to reach hard-to-reach groups and raise awareness of our benefits. We will promote our payments and remove stigma to deliver a new system that treats people with dignity, fairness and respect.
4. In line with our second Benefit Take-up strategy we will develop a holistic approach to signposting and referral, ensuring clients of Social Security Scotland are helped to access wider support.
5. We will continue to work with unpaid carers to direct them to appropriate sources of support during the cost crisis.
6. We will work with debt advice services and carer centres to understand and respond to the continuing impact of the rising cost of living on these services, and will ensure that the specific needs of unpaid carers are reflected.
7. We will draw on the findings from the Scottish Welfare Fund review to inform any future policy improvements.
8. We will explore a Minimum Income Guarantee (MIG) for Scotland, developed by a Steering and Expert Group, and ensure that carers' voices are integral to the design and development of the Steering Groups recommendations.
9. We will gather intelligence around the current range of careers information, advice and guidance and employability services to identify whether this service provision meets the particular needs of carers.
10. We will enhance employment support services with the aim of supporting more parents, some of whom will be carers, to enter and progress in sustainable and fair work.
11. We will continue to fund and promote increased uptake of the Carer Positive employer accreditation scheme, working with employers to support flexible, agile and inclusive workplaces that benefit workers with caring responsibilities.
12. We are providing over £750,000 in year 1 of our new multi-year Workplace Equality Fund 2022 to 2024 to overcome workforce inequalities faced by groups such as carers.
13. We will publish a refreshed Fair Work Action Plan, and engage with carers with lived experience of barriers to employment and employers.
14. We will ensure that the specific barriers faced by carers are taken account of when tackling broader societal issues such as digital exclusion and lack of access to public transport.
15. We will publish the Connected Scotland delivery plan in 2022.
16. We will extend the Connecting Scotland programme to reach up to 300,000 people by the end of this Parliament. The new delivery model will consider the needs of carers into account.
17. We will continue to work with COSLA to progress our shared commitment to end all charges for non-residential social care support. We will work with stakeholders to develop and implement options as soon as practicable and within the lifetime of the Parliament.
"Carers provide an invaluable service to friends and loved ones and should be celebrated. At Phoenix Group we see first-hand the important skills that working carers bring to the workplace and believe they should be supported to stay in or be able to access good work."
"Supporting carers is not just the right thing to do, it makes good business sense. It has been fantastic for Phoenix Group to participate in the Carer Positive process and we were delighted to be recognised as an Exemplary employer in 2020 due to our support for working carers. We know our colleagues really value the 10 days paid carers leave we offer to all employees every year."
Claire Hawkins, Director of Corporate Affairs and Investor Relations, and Executive Sponsor of the Phoenix Group Carers Network
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