Section 4: Aims
Our overall vision for unpaid carers, that Scottish Carer's Assistance will help deliver, is that 'they 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'.
The aims below have been identified following a review of our work to date with carers and the organisations that represent and support them, in the context of the draft Carers Strategic Policy Statement. As set out above, these aims will be used in the process of deciding on final proposals for change through Scottish Carer's Assistance.
And, as highlighted, we intend for these aims to drive how Scottish Carer's Assistance should develop from launch, and in the years immediately after carers in Scotland are no longer receiving Carer's Allowance from the DWP.
Aim 1. Scottish Carer's Assistance is designed to maximise take-up and ensure carers have a positive experience of the social security system
Carers already have busy and demanding lives. In line with Our Charter, applying for and getting support should be simple and stress free. Carers should be treated with patience and kindness, with consideration for how they may feel. The system should also understand carers' needs and the challenges they face, and offer flexibility in the range of ways they can engage with the system, to fit around their other priorities.
Our work to date has found that carers tend to view the current application process for Carer's Allowance fairly positively as it is relatively straightforward and trust-based, and it is important that this is protected. Consideration will need to be given to this in relation to any changes to eligibility criteria which could add complexity to the process of applying for Scottish Carer's Assistance.
Take-up of Carer's Allowance is difficult to measure accurately as the criteria mean it is challenging to work out the number of people who are eligible but do not apply. In designing and delivering Scottish Carer's Assistance we will need to consider how we can remove key barriers to take-up, as identified by our first Benefit Take-up Strategy and look particularly into where there may be barriers for particular equality groups and how these can be addressed.
Aim 2. Scottish Carer's Assistance provides stability and supports carers to pursue goals outside of caring, where they wish to
We recognise that carers face a number of pressures in their daily lives. Concerns about how relatively minor changes in their circumstances may affect their own support should not be one of these pressures, and Scottish Carer's Assistance should provide some stability through these changes, whether this is to their work, their health, or the situation of the person they care for.
The importance of supporting carers at key points in their lives has been highlighted in a number of areas in our work to date. This could be the at the beginning of a caring role, the change from being a young carer to an adult carer, moving into or out of education, or when a caring role comes to an end. The design and delivery of Scottish Carer's Assistance should do more to connect with wider services to help carers through these changes and to get the support they need.
We have also heard about the value to carers' health and wellbeing of the ability to take advantage of opportunities outside of their caring role, which could be learning, training, employment, or wider participation in their community or society, such as through voluntary work. Scottish Carer's Assistance should not be a barrier to this, and we have heard concerns that elements of the current system relating to education and employment in particular may be confusing, complex to navigate and may restrict opportunities.
Aim 3. Scottish Carer's Assistance recognises the role of unpaid carers, that different carers have different needs, and that different caring situations have different impacts
We know that carers value the acknowledgement that Carer's Allowance provides of their caring role and the importance of this, and want to retain this aspect of the support. Scottish Carer's Assistance should provide support to carers, with no requirement to work outside of caring, in recognition of the value of what carers do, as well as the impact of this on their lives and opportunities.
But no two carers or caring roles are the same, and it is important that as far as practically possible Scottish Carer's Assistance is designed in a way that works for the diversity of Scotland's carers. Our research has also highlighted concerns that the current support does not recognise the variety of caring situations, or differences in caring roles, and the impact of this on carers. However, we are also aware of the need to balance the aim of recognising differences in caring with what carers have told us about the importance of clear eligibility criteria and simple processes for receiving support.
We have heard in particular that support should provide greater recognition of the impacts of multiple caring roles, on carers' health, wellbeing and ability to access other opportunities. In light of this we are already committed to providing additional support to people in receipt of Carer's Allowance who are caring for more than one disabled child.
We also introduced our Young Carer Grant in recognition of the need to support young carers, and designed this to reflect the different roles and needs of young carers compared to older carers, providing support to access life opportunities which are the norm for their non-caring peers.
As part of our engagement work on this discussion paper we will be seeking views on the aims set out above, in particular whether these capture what we should be seeking to achieve through Scottish Carer's Assistance and whether there are other key areas which are not covered.