Scottish Carer's Assistance: consultation analysis

Independent analysis of responses to the Scottish Carer's Assistance consultation, a new Scottish benefit which will replace Carer’s Allowance, and be delivered by Social Security Scotland. The consultation was undertaken between 28 February 2022 and 23 May 2022.

Scottish Carer's Assistance from launch

A service that works well for carers

The consultation paper set out in its introduction that Scottish Carer's Assistance when launched will broadly mirror how Carer's Allowance works, meaning the core eligibility criteria will remain the same as Carer's Allowance initially. In the consultation the Scottish Government set out that the reason for this is to protect carers' existing support and to avoid creating a 'two tier system' where people in Scotland who are getting Carer's Allowance from the Department for Work and Pensions are treated differently from those getting Scottish Carer's Assistance. However, the consultation proposed some changes to how the current benefit works, including processes for challenging a benefit decision and clear timescales for this. Support would also be paid to carers when the person they care for is challenging a change to their disability benefits.

The consultation paper noted that when Scottish Carer's Assistance is first launched, the service provided will be designed based on user research and ongoing user engagement, so that it meets carers' needs. The paper also noted that with the development of Social Security Scotland, the Scottish Government has opportunities to link Scottish Carer's Assistance into wider carer services and support. Once launched, there will be ongoing work with carers and support organisations to understand how well the system is working and to identify any changes needed.

The first consultation question asked:

Question 1: Please give us your views on how Scottish Carer's Assistance services could be designed to suit carers' needs (For example, in terms of how carers can apply for benefits, report changes that may affect their benefits, get payments, or get information or notifications about their benefits).

A total of 164 respondents made comments on this question. Types of answers generally tended to fit into the following three broad categories:

  • Suggestions regarding the best means of communication (e.g. online, phone) for applications, receiving information and notifications, and reporting changes.
  • Recommendations about the processes involved and the types of support needed by carers when dealing with Scottish Carer's Assistance services.
  • Concerns about the rules surrounding the current Carer's Allowance and suggestions for how these should be amended for Scottish Carer's Assistance.

Amongst suggestions about the best forms of contact with Scottish Carer's Assistance services, the largest numbers (a large minority comprising two in five respondents) cited an online system or platform or online accounts; these were viewed as the easiest and quickest methods of submitting and tracking applications, reporting changes and receiving notifications. Further advantages to carers of an online platform included saving time on the phone, being able to speak to staff online and being able to use online functionality at any time of day and night. An individual respondent noted that "Carer's Allowance has been great to support people with during lockdown as it can be completed and submitted online, without needing an account". Another individual mentioned that:

"Definitely being able to do more things online being dyslexic myself the form at the moment is so long and requires me to get someone else to help me with this but online I am able to spell check so makes it much quicker."

A few respondents put forward similar advantages of using email (good for information provision and time-saving for carers) or secure mobile phone applications (also known as apps).

However, significant numbers of respondents (including almost half the organisations) thought there was a need for a choice of contact methods or formats because of digital exclusion concerns (e.g. carers not being confident with computer technology).

Significant numbers of respondents were in favour of communication by phone, albeit with caveats, stating there should be no waiting, direct line availability where carers could speak to a person and phone option availability for longer hours. Slightly smaller though still significant numbers wanted a postal or paper-based option, with the suggestion that this would be desirable for older carers and those without access to the internet. A text service was deemed helpful by a few mainly individual respondents for occasions when carers cannot get to a computer.

An in-person or face-to-face option was recommended by a small minority, mainly consisting of organisations. It was reasoned this would offer help with completing forms, with recommendations for visits from benefits advisors or local community-based venues being made available for meetings.

A few respondents (almost entirely organisations) cited the importance of inclusive formats regarding information provision, with requests for BSL, Braille and multiple language versions and interpreting services to be made available. Plain English and large print were also advocated to enable ease of reading.

Regarding the processes involved in accessing Scottish Carer's Assistance services, the largest numbers of respondents (a large minority including a majority of organisations) requested that these should be as simple and straightforward as possible. Ease of understanding, ease of making changes, ease of completion of forms, less duplication of information provision and not having to set up brand new applications for each time Scottish Carer's Assistance is applied for were all suggested. A small number of individuals thought it would be a good idea for Scottish Carer's Assistance processes to take on board the arrangements for the Universal Credit system or the Tax Credit system, commenting positively on these as demonstrated by the following:

"I feel the Journal arrangement which Universal Credit has is a very good tool indeed to report changes or simply seek advice or pass on information. It has been very efficient for me in the past. Due to caring role, I simply do not have the time to hang on, press this number, press this option then hold again etc. on telephone. I feel the new Scottish Carer's Assistance should consider this "journal" arrangement. This Journal arrangement is a good way of exchanging info from both sides in a quick and efficient way." (Individual)

A significant minority highlighted a need for quicker processes. Complaints were made about lengthy forms, time spent on the phone, postal evidence taking a long time to process and lengthy waits before receiving any payments. In terms of the latter, quicker payment adjustments and Scottish Carer's Assistance payments being made as soon as disability payments are granted to a cared for person were requested. A campaigning / advocacy body requested fast tracking of support specifically for carers of the terminally ill.

Provision for more support in applying for Scottish Carer's Assistance was recommended by a significant minority, including almost half of responding organisations. Help from carers charities and carers centres was suggested in order to assist with form filling and also with redeterminations and appeals. There were a small number of suggestions that promotion of such support could be publicised at GP surgeries or Citizens Advice Bureaus. A significant minority also wanted more clarity about procedures, for example eligibility criteria, information that applicants need to provide, the circumstances under which Scottish Carer's Assistance services need to be informed about changes, and letting carers know when they need to make contact. A respondent attending a consultation event noted that carers need to know who to approach to obtain advice and support, for example, to obtain clarity on qualifying benefits or how a carer can demonstrate eligibility.

A few respondents urged payment dates and procedures to offer more flexibility, including options of weekly, fortnightly or monthly payments; a local authority reasoned:

"Payments should be similar to Carer's Allowance with an option for weekly payment. However, the other preferred payment option to be monthlyrather than current 4-weekly as this allows the claimant to budget better when in receipt of UC which is monthly based."

Regarding benefit payment procedures, there were a small number of respondents who wanted direct payments into bank accounts to continue, though one individual desired an option for collecting cash from a Post Office.

A large minority of respondents from most sub-groups thought that eligibility for Carer's Allowance was too restrictive and advocated for Scottish Carer's Assistance to be more accommodating. A wide variety of situations and areas for which it was thought the rules needed reviewing were suggested. Respondents tended to reiterate these themes throughout the consultation, and they included:

  • Recognition for carers who care for more than one disabled person, so that all hours spent caring can count towards getting Scottish Carer's Assistance.
  • Increasing or removing earnings restrictions.
  • Recognition of shared caring roles, so that more than one person can get Scottish Carer's Assistance when caring for the same person.
  • Payments made based on the hours spent caring (e.g. in cases where caring hours fluctuate).
  • Scottish Carer's Assistance should continue once the carer is in receipt of State Pension.
  • Carers for family members without qualifying benefits should become eligible for Scottish Carer's Assistance.
  • Payments should be backdated for more than 3 months, amid concerns that there is a strict 3 month time limit for this.
  • Scottish Carer's Assistance should not be classed as income in low-income benefits.
  • The 'cliff edge' for Scottish Carer's Assistance should be removed when a cared for person dies or goes into a care home (without elaborating on whether this should be in the form of extending payment periods or a taper).

There were also a few requests from organisations for increases to Carer's

Allowance, Scottish Carer's Assistance or the Carer's Additional Person Payment, for instance to those in remote communities or to counteract the effects of rising living costs. Respondents suggested increasing the payment to the National Living Wage or the Real Living Wage.

A significant number of mainly individual respondents also had concerns about how Scottish Carer's Assistance would affect other benefits and urged for these not to be negatively impacted. It was suggested that carers should get access to advice in the form of benefit eligibility checks. There were a small number of worries in particular regarding the links between Scottish Carer's Assistance and Universal Credit. Possible deductions from Universal Credit were mentioned together with further knock-on effects of this such as being unable to access utility company discounts. There were also a very small number of queries about the impact on National Insurance payments.

In connection with the above, links to other support and awards were positively viewed by a significant minority. Automated information being provided to cared for persons when they are awarded disability payments to pass onto carers was suggested, as in the following example:

"It was easy for me to apply to the current system as it was linked to my daughter's DLA award, so it would be good if the system continues to be as 'joined up' as possible." (Individual)

Automated offsetting against Universal Credit was also suggested to avoid overpayments.

Finally, a significant minority consisting mainly of third sector and campaigning /advocacy organisations said that there was a need for a flexible, individual-centred approach due to the many differing circumstances and needs within the caring community. This would help give recognition to the huge contribution made by unpaid carers (e.g. in terms of saving the public purse a huge amount of money). There were also a couple of calls for carers to be involved in testing the design of the new Scottish Carer's Assistance.

The next consultation question asked:

Question 2: Please give us your views on support that Scottish Carer's Assistance could link to that would be helpful for carers

A total of 146 respondents made comments. A wide range of organisations and forms of support that Scottish Carer's Assistance could link to were recommended. The most frequently mentioned organisations (by a large minority notably including half of the responding organisations) were carer centres. These were generally perceived as being a local source of help for carers in accessing and completing paperwork, being a general source of information and also performing an advocacy role on behalf of carers.

Smaller but still significant minorities mentioned links to carers support groups or organisations (e.g. Carers UK, VOCAL). Similar numbers advocated support from either local or national charities or third sector organisations, some of which focused on help for particular health conditions such as autism or Parkinson's disease. Specific mentions were made of Quarriers, Takeabreak Scotland, One Parent Families, Marie Curie and the Perth & Kinross Association of Voluntary Service (PKAVS).

Small minorities (around one in twelve respondents) advocated links to the following sources of support:

  • Social workers / social work / social services (e.g. for social care support, or referrals for assessments: assessing needs of a child).
  • Mental health services or support (e.g. for specific conditions, advice, emotional support).
  • Local authorities or other specified Council services (e.g. Welfare Rights Department / Officer), with a suggestion to automatically alert the relevant local authority on a carer's status.

A few respondents recommended links to the Citizens Advice Bureau, seen as a provider of free, impartial advice to carers and advocacy and support in upholding carers' rights. Small numbers thought there should be a direct link to the NHS GP system in order to show that a carer was classified as such, for example to aid covid vaccinations and to enable direct referrals or self-referrals.

Types of support to which Scottish Carer's Assistance could link were suggested, mainly focused on getting information (by a large minority of roughly two in five respondents). The largest numbers (nearly one in three respondents including half of organisations) desired links to or information about other grants or benefits. Regarding benefits, information as to how entitlements to other benefits (e.g. cared for persons DLA/PIP, Universal Credit or Carers Credit for National Insurance) are impacted by receiving

Scottish Carer's Assistance or automated checks for entitlements to other benefits upon application for Scottish Carer's Assistance were the main focus, for example:

"…there must also be links to sources that show what other support the carer can access. For example, a benefit checker like our benefit calculator is a resource that can quickly find the full entitlement of whoever uses it. This kind of resource is important in ensuring that the carer can maximise their income and be better prepared for the time investment of providing care." (Campaigning / Advocacy organisation)

A wide variety of links to forms of grant support (both actual and desired) were suggested. These included: help with household and fuel bills, a warm homes discount, subsidised broadband, council tax reductions, bus passes, cinema / theatre / leisure discounts, self-care grants, aid with financial stress, a Scheme of Assistance to get financial support for home adaptations, personal mobility solutions, free dental care, free optician care, military compensation (for veterans) and support for hospital travel.

A significant minority of mainly organisations thought that having a central gateway for signposting information about all relevant services would be useful, in order to point the way to organisations able to help. There were suggestions that this should be accessible at the point of application for Scottish Carer's Assistance, with it noted that there is no such function associated with Carer's Allowance.

A few respondents each cited a need for links to support in obtaining (free or cheap) financial advice, and for aid with the application process for Scottish Carer's Assistance (e.g. information about how to apply, information provision in different languages and to reflect the often complex roles of carers), with a claim that such advice helps with award provision at the first attempt. A very small number wanted links to support, with legal advice for continuity planning, wills or powers of attorney, and to protect the cared for person's interests.

There were also a significant minority of requests for easier access to support and advice generally. It was noted that carers have little spare time and that access is particularly difficult for carers in remote and rural communities for whom there are no nearby carer centres. Aids were suggested including contacts with relevant people and organisations, more online visibility, online platforms being available, and the Social Security Scotland website providing relevant links. There were also recommendations to have a more user-friendly service and having more local links. Better phone support was also recommended by a small number of respondents.

Similar numbers urged links to respite care options in order to give carers a break from caring duties. A few recommended links to support for carers' own health.

Small numbers of respondents each advocated links to education and training opportunities and help with getting into work (e.g. provision of careers advice).

Scottish Carer's Assistance rules about residence

The consultation paper explained that Scottish Carer's Assistance rules about residence will be based on where the carer lives, and not where the person they care for lives. Rules about where a carer needs to live to receive support will be different from Carer's Allowance, as Scottish Carer's Assistance will only be able to provide support to people who are living in Scotland, or have strong links to Scotland in certain circumstances. The Scottish Government is also looking at how the 'past presence test' should work. At the moment, this means people need to have been living in Scotland, England or Wales for two of the past three years. Following recent appeals against these rules, the Scottish Government has reduced the 'past presence test' for Child and Adult Disability Payments. The aim is that carers and the people they care for will be treated in the same way in relation to residence requirements. If a different 'past presence test' is to be used, the Scottish Government would need to work with the Department for Work and Pensions to look at the impact of this. The Scottish Government noted in the consultation that they are keen to ensure that carers getting Scottish Carer's Assistance could still receive any extra amounts in their benefits that carers getting Carer's Allowance would get, for example, Carer Premiums paid in Income Support.

Questions three, four and five asked:

Question 3: Do you agree or disagree with the proposed residency criteria for Scottish Carer's Assistance?

Question 4: Please write the reason why you agree or disagree with the proposed residency criteria for Scottish Carer's Assistance, or any other information you want to share on this question.

Question 5: Please give us your views on the 'past presence test' which should be used for Scottish Carer's Assistance.

The proposed residency criteria

As shown in the following table, a majority of those answering question 3 (68%) agreed with the proposed residency criteria for Scottish Carer's Assistance.

Table 2: Level of agreement with the proposed residency criteria for Scottish Carer's Assistance
Q3 Number (percentage *)
Agree Disagree Unsure Not answered
Organisations (n=41) 19 5 7 10
Individuals (n=151) 100 14 30 7
Total respondents (n=192) 119 19 37 17
Total respondents answering question (n=175) 119 (68%) 19 (11%) 37 (21%)  

* figures may not add to 100% due to rounding

A total of 123 respondents provided comments on this question, almost all of these positive. The largest number, a large minority of mostly individuals, agreed that the carer should need to live in Scotland or that current residency should be the main consideration, with further approval by a few of these regarding the 'ordinarily resident' and 'habitually resident' definitions. The main reason given for this point of view was that the funding is Scottish. A few respondents viewed this approach as common sense and fair. Similar numbers (almost all of whom were organisations) viewed the proposed rule changes positively, saying they would bring Scottish Carer's Assistance in line with rules for other Scottish benefits and that it makes sense to have a uniform approach. A very small number perceived the proposals as helping to widen access or ensure equality of support for carers.

A significant minority of one in five (mostly individuals) viewed it as not being possible to genuinely care full-time for someone living outside the carer's area or a long way outside Scotland, stating there was a need for the carer to live with or close to the cared for person. Respondents voiced concerns over the system being open to fraud in this respect with evidence needed of genuine caring. A few (almost all individual) respondents thought that both the cared for person and the carer should live in Scotland to access Scottish Carer's Assistance. However, a small number of individuals disagreed, maintaining that it was not possible for some carers to live close to the cared for person because of issues such as expensive housing and other family-related travel reasons.

There were a significant number of calls (in particular from one in four organisations) for flexibility in the arrangements, with concerns raised over people falling through the gaps owing to differences between devolved and reserved benefits. Examples were given of cases involving those arriving from another country, and particularly where a carer, close to the Scottish border was providing unpaid care to a Scottish resident. To resolve these issues, recommendations were made to make reciprocal arrangements and agreements with the Department for Work and Pensions and enacting the proposal to include carers with 'strong links to Scotland'.

Significant numbers of mainly organisations either voiced approval about reducing the 'past presence test' (e.g. to be consistent with Child and Adult Disability Payments) or cited concerns over its use, with a few calls to reduce the residence period further or eliminate it entirely so that the carer can receive support as soon as they move to Scotland. It was envisaged that recent arrivals could have significant challenges and hurdles to overcome in addition to caring responsibilities.

A couple of campaigning / advocacy organisations saw a need to extend Scottish Carer's Assistance to people subject to immigration controls, with one of these pointing out that there are some groups not excluded from receiving other benefits.

Very small numbers voiced the following points of view:

  • Scottish Carer's Assistance should be for Scottish people (e.g. those brought up in Scotland) or carers need to have been in Scotland for a lengthy period of time to receive entitlements (e.g. more than 2 years unless returning from living abroad).
  • Agreement with initially keeping the regulations as they are, to maintain continuity and to ensure recipients of Carer's Allowance are not disadvantaged.
  • Concerns over the tests for 'ordinarily resident' and 'habitually resident'.

For instance, a representative body stated the following: "…paragraph 2919 in the "residence requirements" of Annex B (which is intended to amplify the main consultation text) does not clarify adequately the distinction between being 'ordinary resident' in Scotland and 'habitually resident' in the 'common travel area' that is defined as "the UK, Ireland, the Isle of Man, and the Channel Islands", unless it is the intention to say that a person living in Scotland could claim Carer's Assistance, even if their 'main residence' was elsewhere in the UK. If that isn't the intention then thepolicy requires further clarification; if it is the intention then we disagree."

Views on the 'past presence test'

A total of 114 respondents made comments at question 5. Many of these echoed positions stated at the previous question. The largest numbers, two in five respondents, agreed with the 'past presence test' as used with the proposed time reduction for Scottish Carer's Assistance, for largely the same reasons given at question 4. Two out of three years residence was seen as being too long and a preference was agreed for 26 of the last 52 weeks; this was viewed as still being sufficient to deter people moving to Scotland simply to receive additional benefits.

However a few, mostly individual, respondents stated a preference for the 'past presence test' under the current Carer's Allowance rules, reasoning that fewer people would 'fall through the cracks' and that this would act as a disincentive to stop people abusing the Scottish benefits system. An additional significant minority stated agreement with the 'past presence test' in general but it was unclear from their answer whether this was with reference to the current Carer's Allowance rules, or to the reduction for Scottish Carer's Assistance.

A significant minority of around one in five respondents (including most campaigning / advocacy organisations) disagreed with the use of the 'past presence test'. It was envisaged that if a carer lives in Scotland, can prove residency, and provides full time care they should be able to apply for Scottish Carer's Assistance. Other arguments given for this standpoint were that the 'past presence test' presents an unnecessary barrier to support, that it has negative impacts on the cared for person, and that its removal would help to embed a human rights approach in Scottish Carer's Assistance.

A few respondents agreed that there was a need to work with the Department for Work and Pensions and the other UK nations to examine the impact of changes to the 'past presence test' (e.g., changes to the number of applicants). There were a small number of concerns expressed over how the divergence in rules from the rest of the UK might lead to abuses of the system.

Similar numbers cited concerns over how carers moving to Scotland from the rest of the UK or abroad (including those moving back home), for example to care for a relative, will be treated. There were calls for devolved benefits to apply in these cases, amid concerns over adverse effects on those cared for if carers were disincentivized by a lack of eligibility. In a similar vein, there were a small number of concerns over how immigrants or refugees unable to meet the 'past presence test' requirements would be treated.

When a carer is not happy with a decision

The consultation paper noted that carers will have the right to ask for decisions on their eligibility for Scottish Carer's Assistance to be reviewed, through re-determinations and appeals. As part of the re-determination process, a new team will look at the application and any other information provided by the carer and make a new decision. The carer can then appeal if they disagree with the decision made in the re-determination. Currently, if a carer disagrees with the decision made by the Department for Work and Pensions, they can ask for the decision to be looked at again as part of a 'mandatory reconsideration'. Carers need to do this within one month but there are no set timescales for how long the Department for Work and Pensions needs to do this.

The consultation paper pointed out that the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018 already sets out the processes for appealing decisions and the timescales for appeals against decisions made by Social Security Scotland. Currently, carers have 31 days from a re-determination decision to apply for an appeal in most cases. The Scottish Government is proposing that carers should have 42 days from a decision to ask for a re-determination and that Social Security Scotland should have 56 days to carry out the re-determination following a request. Carers would still be able to submit a late request if they have good reason for this. They can also apply for an appeal if the re-determination decision is not made on time.

The next questions asked:

Question 6: Do you agree or disagree with the proposed re-determination timescales for Scottish Carer's Assistance?

Question 7: Please write the reason why you agree or disagree with the proposed re-determination timescales for Scottish Carer's Assistance, or any other information you want to share on this question.

As table 3 demonstrates, many more respondents – across all sub-groups – agreed (73%) than disagreed with the proposed re-determination timescales for Scottish Carer's Assistance. Of the organisations that answered this question, campaigning / advocacy organisations were the only sub-group where there was any disagreement with this proposal.

Table 3: Level of agreement with the proposed re-determination timescales for Scottish Carer's Assistance
Q6 Number (percentage *)
Agree Disagree Unsure Not answered
Organisations (n=41) 24 4 1 12
Individuals (n=151) 94 10 28 19
Total respondents (n=192) 118 14 29 31
Total respondents answering question (n=161) 118 (73%) 14 (9%) 29 (18%)  

* figures may not add to 100% due to rounding

A total of 113 respondents made comments at question 7. Most answers reflected the widespread agreement at question 6.

Three main themes were expressed. The largest numbers of respondents – a large minority – commented that the proposed re-determination timescales seemed fair, reasonable or an improvement on the current rules, often without expanding further. Similar numbers stated that giving more time to request a re-determination would be helpful, with comments that this would help to enable a good case to be put together, or for information to be gathered and submitted. A significant minority added that it would allow time for carers to contact and get support and advice from relevant sources such as rights officers, welfare advisors, lawyers and the Citizens Advice Bureaux. It would also give time to get information about short-term financial assistance during the interim period of possible suspension of Scottish Carer's Assistance. Slightly fewer respondents thought the longer time period would make life easier for carers, pointing out that their priority was care, it was easy for them to forget things, and that they were generally short of time.

Smaller but still significant minorities agreed that bringing re-determination timescales into line with other Scottish benefits would be good for consistency and would help to make things simpler.

Small numbers of respondents each cited that they were in favour of the following:

  • Carers either having the right to appeal if the re-determination timescale has lapsed, or having an extension of the timescale, with a need to take circumstances into account.
  • Social Security Scotland having a set time limit (56 days) within which to carry out a re-determination; a campaigning / advocacy organisation pointed out that this was less than the 3-month timescale normally associated with other Department for Work and Pensions benefits.
  • Having the same time periods for a re-determination request and conducting the re-determination, or for an appeal and its adjudication, to avoid confusion.
  • Very small numbers thought that the appeals process should be quicker or that the timescale rules for re-determinations should be made clearer.

Amongst a significant minority of respondents who both agreed and disagreed with the proposed re-determination timescales, there was a view that decision making processes by Social Security Scotland should not need a longer period than carers have to request a re-determination. It was intimated that both the current Department for Work and Pensions open period and the 56 day proposal were unacceptable as this increases the risk of financial hardship for carers. The 42 day period as proposed for re-determination requests was supported by a couple of respondents.

Amongst the small minority of respondents who disagreed with the proposed timescales, the largest numbers - a few individuals - regarded these as being too long, citing this added to complications, administrative costs and stress for carers waiting to find out if they would be entitled to the allowance. Alternative suggestions centred on the current 31 days used for the devolved low income benefits and Young Carer Grant, as being adequate. A couple of respondents, however, thought that the proposed timescales should be longer or that the time limits should be removed entirely.

Finally, a campaigning / advocacy organisation cited the following specific point, and an issue perceived as needing rectification:

"Due to successful legal challenges to the DWP's revision and appeals process for Carer's Allowance, claimants have, in practice, 13 months after the date of a decision to start the appeal process. For Scottish Carer's Assistance, this will be reduced to 42 days, with an extension to up to 12 months only if good reason can be shown for the delay. There is no reason that the Scottish system needed to replicate the two-stage approach to challenging a decision that was brought in by the DWP as part of the … UK government welfare reforms. This change has rightly been criticised as a barrier to justice and it is disappointing that a similar system has been introduced into the Scottish system. However, as such a system has been introduced, it is vital that data is collected and analysed to see if this two-stage approach is working effectively, or if it is, indeed, acting as a barrier to justice for claimants wishing to challenge decisions. Whilst we welcome the commitment to ensure re-determinations are dealt with in a timely manner, there is a danger that if the agency's deadline for completing a re-determination is missed, claimants could find themselves having to appeal to the Tribunal, even if Social Security Scotland is able to later make adecision that is in the claimant's favour. This is because the tribunal rules for Scottish benefits, unlike those for UK wide benefits, do not allow an appeal to 'lapse' if the Agency makes a favourable decision after the appeal has been lodged. We would urge the Scottish Government to amend the tribunal rules to resolve this issue." (Campaigning / Advocacy)

When payments need to stop temporarily to check entitlement or protect carers

The Scottish Government is proposing that Scottish Carer's Assistance should work differently from Carer's Allowance in terms of when payments of the benefit may be stopped temporarily. The Scottish Government plans to suspend payments (so that carers would not receive them for a period) in only a very small number of circumstances. For example, to prompt a carer to provide information which Social Security Scotland needs, to check they are entitled to support, or in rare circumstances where Social Security Scotland pays Scottish Carer's Assistance to a third party on behalf of a carer and suspension is necessary to protect the carers payments. Carers would be able to challenge a decision to suspend their payments if they disagree. When a suspension has ended and a carer was entitled to payments during the suspension, they would receive backdated payments for the full amount of their entitlement. Questions 8, 9 and 10 asked:

Question 8: Do you agree or disagree with the proposals on when payments of Scottish Carer's Assistance should be suspended?

Question 9: Please write the reason why you agree or disagree with the proposals on when payments of Scottish Carer's Assistance should be suspended, or any other information you want to share on this question.

Question 10: Please give us your views on what should happen to payments of Scottish Carer's Assistance when a cared for person's qualifying benefit is suspended.

As demonstrated in table 4, 64% of those answering question 8 agreed with these proposals.

Table 4: Level of agreement with the proposals on when payments of Scottish Carer's Assistance should be suspended
Q8 Number (percentage *)
Agree Disagree Unsure Not answered
Organisations (n=41) 20 3 6 12
Individuals (n=151) 83 24 24 20
Total respondents (n=192) 103 27 30 32
Total respondents answering question (n=160) 103 (64%) 27 (17%) 30 (19%)

* figures may not add to 100% due to rounding

A total of 115 respondents made comments in response to question 9. The largest numbers of respondents (a large minority consisting of a mix of those who agreed and disagreed at question 8) pointed out that the stoppage of payments has a big effect and that consideration of this was welcomed. Circumstances where carers had no other form of income, where financial hardship would be caused, and where carers had to give up paid work to care were given as examples.

A significant number of respondents (all of whom agreed at question 8) were of the view that the proposals regarding the suspension of Scottish Carer's Assistance payments were fair, in terms of the circumstances mentioned, or that it was a fairer process than that of the Department for Work and Pensions. It was seen as too easy for the current Carer's Allowance payments to be suspended, increasing the stress on carers. Furthermore, similar numbers from a wide variety of sub-groups thought the reasons for suspension given in the proposals were valid, furthermore agreed suspension should only take place in severe or serious circumstances. A small number added that they approved of the approach and ethos behind it.

Approval was expressed by a significant minority with the perception that Scottish Carer's Assistance payments will not be stopped while qualifying disability payments are suspended or being updated while decisions are pending regarding appeals or re-determinations. A small number added that the proposal would not involve any unnecessary impact on carers.

A mix of respondents who agreed and disagreed at question 8 said it was reasonable to have suspensions in rare cases. Instances where fraud or financial abuse were suspected, where the carer's role is in question or where there were issues with a third party were identified in this context.

Significant numbers of respondents focused their remarks on the impact of stopping qualifying disability payments. It was pointed out by a significant minority (consisting of a mix of those who agreed and disagreed at question 8) that while qualifying disability payments may stop, the caring role does not. For instance, several respondents noted that if a cared for person was in hospital, the carer would still be visiting, liaising with the hospital and dealing with laundry, food and potentially accommodation, all of which involved costs and time.

Other points mentioned by small numbers of respondents in broad agreement with the proposals were as follows:

  • It is reasonable for applicants to provide all information necessary to provide proof of entitlement.
  • Ongoing payments will protect the person being cared for (e.g. care packages can collapse otherwise).
  • Agreement with proposals for missed payments to be backdated or payments due during suspension being provided on resolution.

Amongst the smaller group of respondents who tended to disagree with the proposals, an overriding theme for most was that they were against suspensions of payments in any scenarios, or that payments should continue for transition periods until resolution for all cases.

A variety of reasons were given for not being in favour of suspending payments in any scenario, each given by a few or very small numbers of respondents, as follows:

  • It takes time for carers to provide relevant information or paperwork, particularly if carers are having difficulties with the system for doing so, or where circumstances dictate that this is not a priority (e.g. being ill themselves).
  • The extra stresses and worries incurred by carers.
  • Concerns about the cared for person suffering if payments to the carer were suspended.
  • There should be no reason to suspend payments if the new system was robust and the carer meets the eligibility criteria.

However, a couple of respondents cited a preference for payment suspensions in view of concerns about large overpayments or repayments being necessary at a later date due to an adverse adjudication. Single respondents were in favour of suspensions if the cared for person was in hospital or respite care, pending a re-determination decision or where the qualifying disability benefit has been stopped.

Finally, there were small numbers of calls for clear information regarding appeals and suspension timelines.

A total of 137 respondents chose to comment at question 10. A large minority (one in four respondents) said that Scottish Carer's Assistance payments should continue until a cared for person's situation is resolved, for instance on a report being concluded or until a final decision is made about a cared for persons qualifying benefit status. These respondents advocated for payments to continue as long as the cared for person is taking action to try to have their benefit reinstated or until the reconsideration, re-determination and appeal process is complete. In cases where the final decision went against the carer or cared for person (e.g. the qualifying benefit of the cared for person was terminated at the end of a suspension), a campaigning / advocacy organisation and a representative body thought overpayments of Scottish

Carer's Assistance during the suspension period should not be expected to be returned. However, another campaigning / advocacy organisation and an individual thought these should be reclaimed.

Alternatively, smaller but still significant numbers of respondents advocated that payments should continue if the carer is still providing care. Slightly higher numbers of mainly individual respondents wished to emphasise that the caring role did not end when a cared for person's qualifying benefit stops, with a few adding that proof should be provided that this was the case.

A large majority, including more than one in two organisations, had concerns about leaving carers in financial trouble if the Scottish Carer's Assistance payments were cut off suddenly. Negative views were noted regarding the current Carer's Allowance approach, with points made about carers being unlikely to have much or any employment income and the knock-on negative impacts on other benefits, as detailed in the following example from an individual respondent:

"…the effect on cascade of benefits would be unthinkable and so stressful, there is only me and my adult child who I claim PIP and UC for as their DWP appointee and I claim CA, IS, HB and CTB, I can't imagine the cascade of income loss if PIP needed to be appealed to our family, it was recently re-awarded for another 6 years but even though I've claimed it many (6) times DLA and PIP since 04' it still is very worrying time waiting to hear back every time... so knowing there wouldn't be an immediate suspension of everything while it was being reconsidered or appealed would provide some stress relief."

To this end, these respondents were in favour of carers being supported generally to avoid a cliff edge situation for the carer and possible negative impacts on the cared for person. Support from a significant minority was noted about instigating a run on, grace or notice period before stopping or suspending payments to give carers time to adjust to the changed situation and make other arrangements. A small number of suggestions were made about the length of time this period should be, ranging from 4 weeks to 12 weeks. A very small number recommended that payment amounts should be reduced or tapered off to mitigate sudden changes.

A few respondents thought it was important to have flexibility in respect of the capacity to perform decision-making on an individual or case-by-case basis (e.g. for hospital stay situations).

Suspending Scottish Carer's Assistance payments on suspension of a cared for person's qualifying benefit was advocated by a significant minority, albeit in slightly smaller numbers than those advocating that these continue. The main reason given was that carers would be unlikely to be able to afford to pay back Scottish Carer's Assistance received in the interim period if the final resolution went against the cared for person. However, many of these respondents were in favour of backdated payments of Scottish Carer's Assistance being made if the qualifying benefits were reinstated, with one suggestion that interest should be added to these.

A few respondents thought payments of Scottish Carer's Assistance should be stopped entirely, reasoning that the cared for person's eligibility was part of the qualification requirements or simply that Social Security Scotland needs to have the powers to stop payments, without expanding on this further.

A significant number of respondents (particularly campaigning / advocacy organisations) foresaw a need to signpost or communicate sources of support and advice to carers to mitigate losses of Scottish Carer's Assistance payments.

Finally, a significant minority thought that Scottish Carer's Assistance payment suspension or stoppages should depend on the reason for suspension for the cared for person's qualifying benefit. There was general consensus amongst these respondents that Scottish Carer's Assistance payments should stop or be suspended if fraud or abuse of the system was suspected, or if the suspension was due to reasons within the carer's control (e.g. information provision), and that they should continue in cases where a renewal was taking too long, or where there were system errors or processing mistakes involved.

Setting the value of Scottish Carer's Assistance awards to £0 instead of suspending or ending the award

The consultation paper noted that the Scottish Government want to provide more stability for carers getting Scottish Carer's Assistance when there are periods where they are not eligible for support. The consultation proposed that setting payments to £0 rather than ending them in certain situations would improve stability. The Scottish Government proposed setting Scottish Carer's Assistance awards to £0 where carers are receiving 'overlapping benefits' to protect access to other support. Scottish Carer's Assistance awards would also be set to £0 for any week where a cared for person's qualifying benefit award is set to £0, for example, when the cared for adult is in hospital for more than 28 days. This would be an improvement to the current system, where an award would end at this point, and would allow support for carers to be resumed more quickly and easily, with no need to reapply.

Additionally, the Scottish Government is planning to set Scottish Carer's Assistance awards to £0 for any week in which a carer earns over the earnings limit. This is intended to prevent overpayments where a carer has earnings that change often, but stop an award from being ended when they are not eligible for support only temporarily. It was proposed that after a carer's award has been set to £0 for six months in a row, the award would then end. Carers would be able to request a re-determination of a decision to set their award to £0 and to appeal this decision if they do not agree with the outcome of the re-determination.

The next questions asked:

Question 11: Do you agree or disagree with the proposals for when an award of Scottish Carer's Assistance should be set to £0?

Question 12: Please write the reason why you agree or disagree with the proposals for when an award of Scottish Carer's Assistance should be set to £0, or any other information to want to share on this question.

As shown in table 5, 67% of those who answered this question, across all subgroups, agreed with the proposals for when an award of Scottish Carer's Assistance should be set to £0 (109 agreed and 23 disagreed).

Table 5: Level of agreement with the proposals for when an award of Scottish Carer's Assistance should be set to £0
Q11 Number (percentage *)
Agree Disagree Unsure Not answered
Organisations (n=41) 16 3 8 14
Individuals (n=151) 93 20 22 16
Total respondents (n=192) 109 23 30 30
Total respondents answering question (n=162) 109 (67%) 23 (14%) 30 (19%)

* figures may not add to 100% due to rounding

A total of 126 respondents made comments at question 12. The key theme from a significant minority of respondents was that this offers a more flexible approach or it will be easier as carers will not have to reapply for their benefit. A small number of organisations referred specifically to the flexibility that this offers in allowing for fluctuating earnings and breaks in caring. As commented on by an individual:

"This is a much better and fairer way of doing things and will minimise delay and hardship of waiting for new applications and awards to be made when there are any short-term changes in circumstances or earnings."

Some respondents – mainly organisations – commented on specific elements of this proposal. There were references to the extension to cover periods where earnings are over the earnings threshold and to the protection this offers in terms of access to additional support and their ongoing payment.

There were a number of references across most respondent sub-groups to the logistical aspects of this proposal, with some respondents noting this will save time and paperwork for both the carer and Social Security Scotland. A number of mainly individuals also commented on this being a sensible and fair approach.

While many respondents agreed with this proposal, there were a few concerns from both individuals and organisations that this should continue to be paid when the cared for person is in hospital for more than 28 days. This was on the basis that the caring role might change but it does not stop. A third sector organisation suggested there should be exemptions in some instances where the qualifying benefit has stopped or been paused due to a prolonged hospital admission. A representative body / association noted:

"While someone is in hospital, their carer is unlikely to be relieved of all caring responsibilities. They will have a different set of responsibilities but will still be required to provide support and assistance during this time. The nature of the support will change, but nonetheless they will still be actively involved in caring for the person and meeting their needs both on a practical and emotional level. Carers are actively encouraged to support their loved one when in hospital, especially where their needs are complex or they have communication difficulties. They cannot be asked to contribute in this way and lose access to their Carer's Allowance where it assumed they are no longer carrying out caring duties. This also assumes that, for the period a person is in hospital their carer can go and find work or will apply for other benefits thereby creating a more complex benefits system than is necessary". A few individuals and third sector organisations who had disagreed with this proposal felt it is discriminatory against older people in receipt of State Pension who will not qualify for Scottish Carer's Assistance, as they do not meet the eligibility criteria. A representative body / association commented: "Older people in receipt of State Pension should not lose the Scottish Carer's Assistance payment. This payment should be paid along with the State Pension because older people are being unduly penalised when they are still undertaking caring duties and caring duties do not stop on reaching pensionable age. To do otherwise perpetuates ageism."

Other benefits to this proposal cited by small numbers of respondents included:

  • This will help to avoid overpayments as well as avoiding potential delays in receiving funds.
  • This will cause less stress as carers will not have to reapply for Scottish Carer's Assistance repeatedly.

A number of organisations across all sub-groups requested further information or clarity regarding specific elements of this proposal. These included requests for clarity in terms of:

  • The circumstances when this would apply so that carers are not left without support at times when they are still playing a key role in a person's care.
  • The rationale for a blanket policy of ending an award after six months where this has been set to £0, as this conflicts with the stated intention to protect this access in cases of overlapping benefits.
  • The circumstances in which an award may be set to £0.
  • To understand how awards would be resumed across a range of scenarios.
  • Whether all individuals entitled to £0 award would be entitled to passported assistance and why this would end after 6 months for some carers.
  • How £0 entitlements and restarting entitlements would operate and triggers for this.
  • If payments will stop when caring drops below 35 hours threshold.

A small number of organisations felt this proposal should be introduced when Scottish Carer's Assistance is launched.

Short-term assistance

The consultation paper noted that short-term assistance is a new form of assistance within the Scottish benefits system which provides financial support for people while they challenge a decision to reduce or stop an ongoing payment of certain devolved benefits. The paper explained that this is intended to ensure that people are not put off from challenging decisions by having to manage with a lower income for a period of time. This is paid at a level which maintains the support the person was getting before the decision to stop or reduce their benefits. For Scottish Carer's Assistance, it would not be paid where the decision was to set an award to £0 because the carer is in receipt of an overlapping benefit, is earning over the earnings threshold for a temporary period, or where the qualifying benefit of the person they care for is set to £0.

The Scottish Government is proposing that carers would be able to receive support when the person they care for is challenging a decision to reduce or remove their benefits and is getting short-term assistance. This would be done by treating short-term assistance as a qualifying benefit for Scottish Carer's Assistance. Carers would still face some gaps in support as short-term assistance is only paid during the re-determination and appeal processes. The Scottish Government is also proposing that any Scottish Carer's Assistance paid while a cared for person is receiving short-term assistance would not need to be paid back in most cases.

The next questions asked:

Question 13: Do you agree or disagree with the proposal to pay Scottish Carer's Assistance to carers when the person they are caring for is receiving short-term assistance?

Question 14: Please write the reason why you agree or disagree with the proposals to pay Scottish Carer's Assistance to carers when the person they are caring for is receiving short-term assistance or any other information you want to share on this question.

Question 15: Please give us any other views you want to share on the proposals for Scottish Carer's Assistance when it is first launched.

As demonstrated in table 6, 85% of respondents answering question 13 agreed with this proposal.

Table 6: Level of agreement with the proposal to pay Scottish Carer's Assistance to carers when the person they are caring for is receiving short-term assistance
Q13 Number (percentage *)
Agree Disagree Unsure Not answered
Organisations (n=41) 23 - 4 14
Individuals (n=151) 110 1 19 21
Total respondents (n=192) 133 1 23 35
Total respondents answering question (n=157) 133 (85%) 1 (1%) 23 (15%)  

* figures may not add to 100% due to rounding

A total of 102 respondents then went onto provide comments at question 14. Overall, the comments were largely positive, and respondents welcomed this proposal. A significant minority of respondents across all sub-groups agreed, on the grounds that the carer will still have caring responsibilities and they should not be penalised financially during this process.

A slightly smaller number of respondents – mostly individuals – commented that this appears to be fair, that it is sensible, that it is a good idea or that it is logical but provided little by way of additional commentary. A few organisations welcomed this because it helps to protect income and access to other support for carers and can help to avoid the risk of financial hardship which can then have a negative knock-on impact on a cared for person.

A few organisations across all sub-groups noted that the proposal offers a progressive approach which safeguards the rights of carers, will help to maintain the financial stability of carers and offer them some dignity. A third sector organisation commented:

"The approach of maintaining payments while an appeal or challenge is in process is a better option than stopping all financial support. This is a more human rights based approach and will enable some to challenge decisions without losing benefits. This approach shows that the carer and their caring role is valued alongside that of the cared for person, now receiving short-term assistance. Knowing that any payment incurred during this period will not need to be returned helps those who may have been prohibited from challenging decisions because of financial consequences and gives them a chance to have their say. This approach encourages dialogue and partnership working rather than a dogmatic approach that is dictatorial."

Another benefit cited by a small minority of respondents – mainly individuals – was that this would reduce stress for carers. A few individuals also noted that this would help to prevent abrupt income loss and provide a safety net or safeguard for carers, with a positive knock-on impact for cared for individuals. There were a small number of comments that carers should not be left in financial difficulty and that many are dependent on this money.

A few respondents – all organisations – raised concerns or queries in relation to this proposal. These included a need for:

  • Significant work with the Department for Work and Pensions to ensure that linkages are made. As noted by a campaigning / advocacy organisation:

"Widening entitlement to Carer's Allowance may create issues for passporting to other supports and for evidencing an individual's work-related requirements for UC [Universal Credit] and other reserved benefits. At present someone who satisfies the qualifying criteria for Carer's Allowance automatically has no work-related requirements for UC. If the eligibility criteria for Scottish Carer's Assistance are wider than for Carers' Allowance, will the Department for Work and Pensions accept that entitlement to Scottish Carer's Assistance is sufficient evidence of no work-related requirements for UC?"

  • Alignment with other Social Security Scotland benefits to make the whole system easier to navigate and provide stability for carers; as well as consistency across all benefits that are managed by Social Security Scotland.
  • Scottish Carer's Assistance to be related to the person providing care and not the eligibility of the cared for person.
  • Consideration of the knock-on effects if a negative outcome occurs e.g., if benefits are stopped for a cared for person this could create a financial shock due to other financial support being stopped.
  • Consideration of the decision to exclude those with a £0 award as this could have repercussions on reserved benefits.
  • Consideration as to what happens to carer's pension contributions.

A campaigning / advocacy organisation suggested an alternative approach:

"An alternative approach is to allow a run on period of disability and Scottish Carer's Assistance, once entitlement has ended, in all cases. This would both support those who are challenging decisions and provide support for all individuals who see a drop in income when their entitlements end, allowing them to adjust to a lower income."

Question 15 then asked for any other views respondents wished to share on the proposals for Scottish Carer's Assistance when it is first launched, and 61 provided additional comments, many of which echoed points raised in response to the previous question. A few respondents simply noted their support for this proposal, although a small number of campaigning organisations and a representative body noted that the development of a devolved social security system should meet the six principles outlined by the Scottish Campaign on Rights to Social Security (SCoRSS).

Some respondents referred specifically to the case transfer from Department for Work and Pensions to Social Security Scotland, noting the importance of ensuring this is seamless and quick. A small number of organisations also noted the need for co-operation between Social Security Scotland and the Department for Work and Pensions to ensure that carers do not miss out on any other benefit entitlements and that nobody is affected negatively. There were also a small number of comments of the need for the enrolment process to be simple and easy to complete.

As in response to some previous questions, there were references to eligibility criteria from a significant minority of respondents, with some commenting that those in receipt of State Pension should be entitled to Scottish Carer's Assistance, with some others referring to the earnings threshold which they felt should not be capped at £128 per week. There were also a small number of comments that all full-time carers should receive help with council tax, dental care, etc. in the same way as an individual on income support. Linked to these points, there were also a small number of comments that Scottish Carer's Assistance should be paid to all carers and / or be set at a higher level.

The importance of communicating information about changes was highlighted by some respondents, mostly organisations. There were references to the need for information to be provided to key stakeholders, representative groups and so on, to ensure awareness of any changes and their impacts, and for an inclusive communications strategy. At one of the consultation events, respondents requested information to be provided in a range of formats across a range of different media. Requests included documents to be provided in an easy read format. There were comments that using social media channels to provide information will miss some carers. There were also a few requests for guidance to be provided to local authorities, representative organisations and other stakeholders. A health organisation suggested that Social Security Scotland should provide an advocacy service that can guide carers through the application process.

Other comments made by single respondents – mostly organisations - included:

  • References to changes in legislation that will be required.
  • The Scottish Government should make it easier for carers to report income from Scottish Carer's Assistance for taxation purposes by way of a year-end P60 type statement.
  • References to the need for adequate IT systems, data collection and analysis.
  • A comprehensive review of all carers in Scotland.



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