Section 3: Current support for carers
The current Carer's Allowance benefit is just one part of a much wider system of support available for carers in Scotland from the Scottish and UK Governments and others. It is important that we consider this in designing Scottish Carer's Assistance.
Before the coronavirus outbreak, it was estimated that there were around 690,000 unpaid carers in Scotland, of whom 29,000 were aged 18 or younger. According to Carers Scotland, the number of carers in Scotland may have risen by around 400,000 at the height of the pandemic.
Through the Carers (Scotland) Act 2016, every carer in Scotland is entitled to an adult carer support plan or young carer statement which sets out their needs as a carer, and the support they can get from their local authority. Local authorities also have to consider whether the support provided for carers should include short breaks from caring, and have a duty under the Carers Act to provide information and advice services for carers, including advice on income maximisation. Short breaks for carers are funded by the Scottish Government through support for voluntary sector providers, and funding is also provided for targeted support for young carers. Much of the support is provided by a network of local carer centres, which play a vital role giving practical and emotional support to carers.
Policies are also in place for carers who want to combine caring and employment, including through the Carer Positive accreditation scheme, which encourages employers to support carers to stay in work, and wider employability programmes.
Social security support for carers
Carer's Allowance is the main social security support available specifically for carers. The rate is £67.25 a week in 2020/21. To get Carer's Allowance, carers need to be 16 or over, spend 35 or more hours a week caring for someone in receipt of a specified disability benefit, and not be in full-time education or earning over £128 a week (after deductions). There are no work requirements for carers receiving Carer's Allowance.
The benefit's eligibility criteria mean that those eligible for this support are a small proportion of Scotland's caring population, but will usually be those with some of the most intensive caring roles, the most restricted opportunities, and most commonly, with below average incomes. At the end of August 2020, around 83,000 people in Scotland were getting Carer's Allowance. The number of people receiving Carer's Allowance is rising steadily and this is expected to continue.
Carer's Allowance Supplement, which is unique to Scotland, increases the value of Carer's Allowance by around 13% and is paid in June and December. The rate in 2020/21 is £230.10. Carer's Allowance Supplement is taxable but is not counted as income in calculations of entitlement to reserved benefits or Tax Credits.
Young Carer Grant is an annual payment for 16, 17 and 18 year olds in Scotland who provide care for 16 hours or more weekly and don't get Carer's Allowance. The rate in 2020/21 is £305.10.