National carers strategy

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

Strategic outcomes

  • 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.

How we will achieve this

Scottish Carer's Assistance

Social security is a key component of the support available to unpaid carers. The Scotland Act 2016 gives the Scottish Government powers relating to social security and responsibility over certain benefits, including carer benefits. We are using these powers to create a Scottish social security system based on dignity, fairness and respect. We will use all available powers to ensure the benefits to which carers are entitled provide meaningful support.

We are working with carers and stakeholders to develop a replacement benefit for Carer's Allowance, currently known as Scottish Carer's Assistance, that works better for the people of Scotland. To protect the safe and secure transfer of benefits for people already getting Carer's Allowance, and avoid creating a 'two tier system' which would disadvantage some carers, we do not plan to make changes to eligibility criteria until case transfer is complete.

In our Scottish Carer's Assistance consultation[27], we proposed five priority actions once the process of moving carers' cases from the Department of Work and Pensions to Social Security Scotland is complete. These are:

  • removing education restrictions so full-time students can get Scottish Carer's Assistance,
  • allowing carers to add together hours spent caring for more than one person to meet the caring hours requirement for Scottish Carer's Assistance,
  • increasing the time carers will receive Scottish Carer's Assistance from eight to twelve weeks after the death of a cared-for person,
  • making payments for longer when a cared-for person goes into hospital or residential care, and
  • increasing the amount carers can earn and still get support.

We know that some carers are in paid work, or want to work, but that current rules can make this difficult. We have heard from carers that the earnings limit is too low, and restricts opportunities. We will seek to increase the earnings threshold for carers who wish to take up paid work. We will also consider how Scottish Carer's Assistance could give more stability for carers who would lose their entitlement to Carer's Allowance if they earn £1 over the earnings threshold under current arrangements. This situation means that carers must restrict their working hours to keep their benefits, or end up worse off despite working more hours. We will make the rules for carers who wish to work as straightforward and fair as possible, and we will consider what this could mean for other benefits to ensure carers are not worse off by taking on paid employment.

Our consultation also sought views on whether we should explore a payment to recognise the impacts of a long-term caring role.

Carer's Additional Person Payment

We recognise that caring for more than one person can have additional impacts on carers in terms of their health, wellbeing, and employability, and that no extra support is currently available through Carer's Allowance. Carer's Additional Person Payment is a new payment to be delivered as part of Scottish Carer's Assistance to provide extra support for carers who are eligible for Scottish Carer's Assistance and caring for more than one disabled person.

Attendance Allowance

Attendance Allowance is a benefit for people over State Pension age delivered by the Department for Work and Pensions. It is awarded to help with extra costs if a person is disabled severely enough that they need someone to help look after them.

We intend to replace Attendance Allowance with Pension Age Disability Payment. This follows our replacement of Disability Living Allowance for children with Child Disability Payment, and Personal Independence Payment with Adult Disability Payment.

We want people to receive the benefits to which they are entitled. In designing disability assistance, we are making the whole process as simple and easy as possible to encourage people to apply for payments to which they are entitled. Once fully operational, clients will be able to apply online, by phone, by post or face-to-face.

Advocacy and advice

It is vital that people know what benefits they are entitled to, and that they are able to easily and consistently access them. We are committed to supporting people to receive what they are entitled to and are working with a range of partners who have experience in benefit take-up to learn every lesson we can on what works best. The Scottish Government's second Benefit Take-up Strategy[28] sets out our approach to removing barriers to accessing entitlements.

The Social Security Advocacy Service – delivered independently by VoiceAbility - also supports disabled carers and those they care for to have their say and understand choices and processes which affect them. We will continue to work closely with stakeholders to ensure that carers are able to easily access benefits and advice about benefits.

Actions about social security

We will draw on responses to the Scottish Carer's Assistance consultation to shape future improvements to social security support for carers.

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.

We will run advertising campaigns to reach hard-to-reach groups and raise awareness of our benefits. We will promoting our payments and remove stigma to deliver a new system that treats people with dignity, fairness and respect.

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.

Poverty and cost of living

The cost crisis is disproportionately affecting unpaid carers, exacerbating existing financial pressures already felt by them, not least the long-term impacts of the pandemic. We know that caring comes with additional costs that can significantly impact a carer's financial situation. In conjunction with the reduced earning opportunities described above, providing unpaid care can be financially precarious.

This section sets out a cross-government approach to carers' financial inclusion, including mitigations being taken to alleviate pressure on carers due to the cost crisis. While these measures are not necessarily aimed at carers, many of them will be able to support unpaid carers. We will commit to ensuring that carers are aware of the support that is available to them, and to ensuring that carer-specific challenges are reflected in the support that is available.

Advice and support

To help unpaid carers access support to which they might be eligible, the Scottish Government has launched a 'cost of living' website. Through the Cost of Living Support Scotland website, people will be able to find out what support may be available depending on their own personal circumstances.

The Scottish Government is investing around £12.5 million to provide free income maximisation and welfare and debt advice services across the country.

Energy costs

Carers typically spend a larger proportion of their income on energy to keep the person they care for warm and manage their condition, while they may also need to purchase medical equipment regularly. Due to this, many unpaid carers are likely to be particularly badly affected by rising energy costs. The Scottish Government is putting in place a range of resources and we will make sure that carers can access these easily.

In 2022, we are doubling the Fuel Insecurity Fund (FIF) to £20 million, to assist those most affected by rising global energy prices. This will provide front line support through third sector organisations to people who are at imminent risk of self-rationing or self-disconnecting their energy supply.

In addition, we have committed £1.8 billion to accelerate the deployment of heat and energy efficiency measures and to support those least able to pay. We have allocated £336 million to heat, energy efficiency and fuel poverty measures in 2022-23, including £119 million targeted at fuel poor households, many of whom will be unpaid carers.

Scottish Welfare Fund

The Scottish Welfare Fund is open to anyone who needs support and is on a low income, including unpaid carers. Applications to the Fund are assessed on the basis of need, and consideration is given to each applicants' individual circumstances. Applicants to the Fund do not necessarily need to be claiming a low income benefit in order to be eligible for support, which means that unpaid carers and those not in receipt of any carer specific benefit may be able to receive help.

The Scottish Welfare Fund budget has been protected and maintained for 2022-23 and we are also undertaking a full, independent review this year which will examine all aspects of the Fund including accessibility, funding and administration. The findings from the review will help to inform any future policy changes.

Local authority administration of the Fund is supported by Statutory Guidance which is publicly available and was developed by Scottish Ministers in conjunction with Local Authorities. The Guidance highlights carers as a group of people who may be particularly vulnerable and local authorities are encouraged to take into account each individual applicants' circumstances when deciding on an award, including whether or not the applicant has any caring responsibilities.

We will continue to work with carers to assess whether further assistance, including carer-specific support, is needed separately to the support described above.

Actions about poverty and cost of living

We will continue to work with unpaid carers to direct them to appropriate sources of support during the cost crisis.

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.

We will draw on the findings from the Scottish Welfare Fund review to inform any future policy improvements.

Supporting carers and employment

Carers in the workforce

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, around 270,000 people in Scotland combined work and unpaid care[29]. This represents around 1 in 8 of the workforce. These numbers are likely to grow in the context of an aging population and more people living longer with complex conditions. Most people will be carers at some stage in their working lives.

Working-age women are most likely to be carers, and the likelihood of having caring responsibilities increases for those in their late-40s and early-50s. Over a quarter of women in this age bracket are carers. This represents a large and skilled portion of the workforce.

Balancing care with employment can be tricky. Caring roles tend to change over time, with the intensity and impact of the role linked to changes in the life stages and health and wellbeing of the carer and the person for whom they care. Many carers give up work or reduce their hours in order to provide the care that is needed. This may be a personal choice for some, but others may feel that there is no other option when insufficient support is available to allow work and caring responsibilities to be held in balance.

People should not be forced to reduce their working hours in order to care for someone. As discussed in the Carers Act section of Chapter 4, carers' personalised plan for social care support should take account of their situation, willingness and ability to care, and aspirations for work or study.

Giving up work can reduce financial security for a carer and their family, as well as increasing social isolation and loneliness. It can have a longer term impact on someone's career prospects and their opportunities to return to work. This also has a wider cost to the economy, with people's valuable skills and experience removed from the workplace.

Scotland's economy cannot afford to lose skills and experience when a person decides to give up work or reduce their working hours to allow them to care for a loved one. In addition to the personal impact on individuals, it is estimated that unpaid carers leaving employment cost the UK public purse £2.9 billion a year in welfare payments and lost tax revenue[30]. The impact of women reducing hours, not taking or applying for promotions, or leaving the labour market altogether in order to provide unpaid care contributes towards Scotland's gender pay gap.

Supporting carers to enter or stay in work brings vital benefits to carers, employers and the economy. Many of the challenges faced by carers are due to financial hardship, and tackling the systemic issues that force many to reduce their working hours is a fundamental aim of the Carers Strategy. A range of Scottish Government policies recognise this and promote greater opportunities for carers. For example, the Workplace Equality Fund supports employers to deliver innovative solutions to overcome workforce inequalities faced by groups such as carers, and to encourage employers to embed Fair Work practices within their workplaces. We will continue to promote and support this fund.

When caring roles end or change, carers can find it difficult to re-enter the workforce after long absences. Many of them are older women, who may face additional barriers to getting back into work. We support a range of work to support people to return to work and to promote positive working practices which will encourage them to do so.

No One Left Behind is our strategy for placing people at the centre of the design and delivery of employability services to ensure those services are flexible, tailored and responsive to the needs of individuals, including carers, and local labour markets. We published our No One Left Behind: delivery plan in 2020. It is intended to tackle inequalities in Scotland's labour market and drive sustainable economic growth.

We need to ensure that the specific circumstances of carers are recognised and some elements of current interventions may need to be redesigned to reflect particular challenges experienced by carers. Careers information, advice and guidance, and employability services which carers can access must be relevant to their needs. We will undertake a survey of those with experience of providing unpaid care to better understand their experience of returning to work to inform our strategic policy approach, including developing new or bespoke provision as needed.

We will hold a Roundtable event on employability which will include carers, carer organisations, Local Employability Partnerships (LEPs), Skills Development Scotland, Age Scotland and other relevant groups.

Our aim is to support people into work by ensuring the employability offer in Scotland is person-centred, flexible and responsive to the needs of individuals and employers. We believe this is critical to help people access fair work and achieve their potential in an inclusive and fair economy. We will ensure that carers' interests are considered in the development and implementation of fair work policies.

Work is also underway to explore a Minimum Income Guarantee (MIG) for Scotland. This is an assurance that no one will fall below a set income level that would allow them to live a dignified life. This work is being developed by a Steering and Expert Group who are expected to report before the end of this parliament and will identify and prioritise actions to support steps towards a MIG within current devolved powers. Carers organisations are represented on the Expert Group to ensure that carers' voices are integral to the design and development of the Steering Groups recommendations. We will take account of any interim reports published before the work is complete.

Policies which support carers to enter or re-enter employment

Young adult carers and transition to employment

Skills Development Scotland promotes Fair Work both through its Careers Service delivery and through their employer services. This includes raising awareness of the benefits of inclusive and supportive workplaces and has supported the promotion of Carer Positive through their employer and learning provider networks.

Skills Development Scotland have worked with Carers Trust to develop an e-learning module for their Modern Apprenticeship learning providers which improves their understanding of the barriers to work that unpaid carers may face, and how they can better support them to access and achieve their apprenticeship. Learning providers also complete an Initial Assessment with all apprentices which includes identifying needs for additional support to complete their apprenticeship, for example as a result of caring responsibilities.

Careers advice and guidance is available from Skills Development Scotland[31], with a blend of online services, helpline and direct adviser support from offices across Scotland. For those carers who feel they will need additional support to get into work, Fair Start Scotland[32] is available in every area and offers pre-work support for up to 18 months and in work support for up to 12 months.

We will continue to raise awareness of the current employability support for carers through our engagement with key partners, via the Carer Positive website and through carer centres and other networks.

Policies which support carers to remain in employment

As part of addressing the systemic issues that affect carers we must make it easier for people to remain in work.

Employers can play a unique role in promoting awareness and openness about caring roles. This can encourage people to identify themselves as carers and to seek support from their employers. Carer-friendly policies, awareness and access to flexible working arrangements within an organisation can support carers to remain in work alongside a fluctuating caring role, benefitting both the employer and the carer.

Carer Positive employer accreditation scheme

Carer Positive[33] is an accreditation scheme that recognises those employers who put in place flexible and supportive working practices for people juggling work with unpaid care. It promotes the benefits for businesses, individual carers, society and the wider economy of supporting unpaid carers to remain in work alongside caring.

Carer Positive is free for employers of all sizes, across the public, private and third sectors. The requirements for accreditation are designed to be flexible and proportionate to the size and nature of the organisation involved. The scheme offers three levels of accreditation, Engaged, Established and Exemplary. These reflect the different stages an employer may be at on their journey to supporting carers in their workforce. Carer Positive is funded by Scottish Government and delivered on our behalf by Carers Scotland.

There are over 230 recognised 'Carer Positive' organisations across Scotland. We will continue to work to promote this among employers and encourage Carer Positive accreditation within procurement, commissioning and grant funding conditions.

Claire Hawkins, Director of Corporate Affairs and Investor Relations, and Executive Sponsor of the Phoenix Group Carers Network, said:

"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."

Promoting flexible working

Although the legal powers governing flexible working are currently reserved to Westminster, we are committed to working with employers directly and through their representative bodies to explore ways of promoting and encouraging flexible, agile and inclusive workplaces that while benefitting all employees, is of particular importance to carers.

The Scottish Government, through the Social Innovation Partnership (SIP), is funding Flexibility Works in 2022/23 to support and promote the development of flexible and family friendly workplaces.

Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) funding support

Support available from SAAS to carers who are students includes tuition fee payment and living-cost support of up to £8,100 per annum. Additional grants are available, notably the Dependents' Grant. This is an income-assessed grant of up to £2,640 a year to which student carers who meet eligibility criteria may be entitled. Support available to student carers from SAAS includes tuition fee payment and living-cost support of up to £8,100 per annum.

Actions about employment

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

We will publish a refreshed Fair Work Action Plan, and engage with carers with lived experience of barriers to employment and employers.

Social isolation and loneliness

Scotland's carers deserve to be able to live a full life, which includes time for social activities. Research from Carers UK[34] suggests that "8 out of 10 carers have felt lonely or socially isolated as a result of looking after a loved one". Research from British Red Cross during the COVID-19 pandemic identified carers as one of the groups particularly at risk of isolation. We recognise that the pandemic put carers under immense pressure and exacerbated loneliness and isolation. That is why a key part of our Carers Strategy will be to drive progress to combat social isolation and loneliness.[35]

In 2018, we launched "A Connected Scotland", our national strategy for tackling these issues and building social connections.[36] The strategy highlights carers as a group at risk of social isolation and loneliness and focuses on 4 priorities: empowering communities and building shared ownership; promoting positive attitudes and tackling stigma; creating opportunities for people to connect; and supporting infrastructure that fosters connections. Each of these will contribute to creating more carer-friendly communities.

Following the publication of "A Connected Scotland", we established a Social Isolation and Loneliness Advisory Group, chaired by the Minister for Equalities and Older People. The group comprises key organisations with a role in driving progress to embed a cross-sectoral approach.

We are working with the Social Isolation and Loneliness Advisory Group to develop and implement of a shared delivery plan for A Connected Scotland, which will be published in 2022.

Other initiatives will help to combat social isolation and barriers to employment. In particular, efforts to support digital inclusion and to ensure reliable and affordable public transport can tackle some of the challenges faced by carers. We will take a joined-up approach to this work to ensure that carers benefit.

Digital solutions

Access to public, economic and social life is increasingly being driven by the internet and digital technology. The last two years has seen the pace of change accelerated due to the impact of COVID-19, requiring services both to respond to the immediate demands of the pandemic and to maintaining essential health and social care services.

The extent to which carers are able to engage with digital services in this new landscape has been affected by a number of factors: access to devices; cost; connectivity; and digital literacy. Little carer-specific research in this area currently exists but more general research highlights that disability, age, employment status and social isolation/exclusion are key factors in determining the extent to which individuals have access to, and use of, the internet, devices and online services.

We will work with carers to understand barriers to their digital participation, including through Connecting Scotland. We will take action to remove barriers and enable greater digital inclusion among carers both directly and through wider initiatives to provide superfast broadband to every home and our commitment to introduce 4G connectivity in remote rural and island areas. This can be transformative to reducing social isolation among carers.

Carers and transport

Adequate and affordable transport is a lifeline for many carers. A lack of transport can be a significant barrier to being able to travel to and from work, but can also restrict social opportunities. Lack of access to public transport or not owning a car can be barriers to carers accessing employment or socialising. We know that caring can sometimes force people into poverty, meaning that these effects are felt particularly among some carers. These are issues that affect many people in Scotland, not just carers; however, this Strategy will provide a means to ensure that in tackling these issues across Scotland, the specific circumstances of carers are taken into account.

Actions about social inclusion

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.

We will publish the Connected Scotland delivery plan in 2022.

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.

Carers and the cost of care

Charging for non-residential social care

In Scotland personal and nursing care is free for anyone who is assessed as eligible by their local authority, to receive this service, regardless of their age, income or circumstances. Support for unpaid carers is not subject to charging.

However people may still be charged for adult social care support that is not classed as personal care or support for unpaid carers. Charges for social care support are usually dependent on a financial assessment also carried out by the local authority which is means tested. The COSLA National Strategy and guidance defines a set of principles to underpin the development of local charging policies.[37] Charging policies at both a national and local level should be accessible, transparent, fair and equitable, and developed from a human rights perspective.

Actions about social care charging

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.



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