Section 2: The story so far
The Scottish Government is committed to improving support for Scotland's carers. This has been a key part of our work in social security since agreement was reached in 2015 to devolve some powers over carer benefits to the Scottish Parliament.
These powers, set out in the Scotland Act 2016, allow the Scottish Government to pay benefits to people providing 'regular and substantial care' to 'a person to whom a disability benefit is normally payable'. They do not extend to carer elements of benefits provided by the UK Government, and do not allow benefits to be paid to those caring for someone who is not getting a disability benefit.
Increasing the support available to carers through the Carer's Allowance Supplement was one of our first priorities with these new powers. Responsibility for Carer's Allowance transferred to the Scottish Government in September 2018 so we could provide this extra money to carers through Social Security Scotland. The Supplement increases Carer's Allowance by around 13%, and so far has paid out an extra £129.8 million to carers in Scotland. Carer's Allowance is now provided to carers in Scotland on behalf of Scottish Ministers by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) through an Agency Agreement. The independent evaluation of Carer's Allowance Supplement demonstrates its positive impact on recipients of Carer's Allowance, who typically have some of the most intensive caring roles and are often on some of the lowest incomes.
In October 2019, we opened applications for our Young Carer Grant, the first support of its kind in the UK, providing annual grants of £305.10 (2020/21 rate) to Scotland's young carers, and linking them to wider support, to help them access opportunities which are the norm for other young people. We are also committed to providing extra support to people caring for more than one disabled child, in light of the impact we know these multiple caring roles can have on carers' health, wellbeing, and opportunities.
Developing Scottish Carer's Assistance
This discussion paper has been informed by a range of work since 2015, as well as wider research relevant to support for carers. More information on the evidence we have considered is included in Annex B, but we have highlighted the key elements below, and in Diagram 2.
- In November 2015, we set up the Carer Benefits Advisory Group to work on the development of policy for devolved carer benefits. The group comprises representatives from the National Carer Organisations, carer services, health and social care, local authorities and welfare advice organisations, and has carried out a range of research and wider work to inform the development of options for Scottish Carer's Assistance.
- In 2016, our Consultation on Social Security in Scotland asked for views from the public on the overall approach to Scottish carer benefits, including increasing the level of Carer's Allowance, and proposals for new support for young carers, as well as inviting comments on ideas for change.
- In October 2016, we established the Disability and Carer Benefits Expert Advisory Group, to provide independent expert advice on the development of our disability and carer benefits. To date, the group's advice has included recommendations on the development of Carer's Allowance Supplement, Young Carer Grant, the proposal to provide additional support to those caring for more than one disabled child, and the overall aims for Scottish Carer's Assistance.
- We have also worked with the Experience Panels, which were set up in 2017 and involve volunteers with experience of the current benefits system in the development and design of devolved benefits. We have taken views from the panels on the existing Carer's Allowance benefit, as well as Carer's Allowance Supplement and the proposed additional support for carers of multiple children.
- In 2019, we consulted with stakeholders and the public on our draft Carers Strategic Policy Statement. The Statement sets out Scottish Government's overall vision for unpaid carers, as set out above, brings together outcomes for carers across government and includes key principles for how policies should be developed and delivered.
- In 2020, as part of our evaluation of Carer's Allowance Supplement we heard directly from carers in receipt of this support about their experience of this and their views on Carer's Allowance.
- In June 2020, Scottish Ministers set up the Social Renewal Advisory Board, to discuss and plan a way forward for Scotland following the coronavirus pandemic. The Board's work was informed by a range of engagement with members of the public, community groups and third sector organisations and its report, published in January 2021, includes calls for improvements to support for unpaid carers.
- The Independent Review of Adult Social Care, which published its recommendations in February 2021, took in a range of evidence from individuals, groups, and discussions with organisations supporting those in receipt of social care and their carers. The review highlighted the importance of unpaid carers and the challenges they face.
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