Social Security experience panels: carer benefits - main report

Outlines the Social Security experience panel's views expressed in a survey to help design carer benefits in Scotland.


The first part of the survey looked at the design of the new benefit for carers of more than one disabled child under the age of 18. Only 11 per cent of respondents (a total of 26) said that they care for more than one disabled child, so the findings should be considered in that light, and should not be considered representative of wider populations.

Most respondents said that they would want to receive a leaflet about the new payment with their Carer's Allowance Supplement letter or receive a letter specifically about the payment with an application form.[1] Many also wanted to receive information via a carers' organisation or see information on social media. Most respondents said that they would want to apply for the new benefit online.

Respondents felt that the application should be short and simple, with space for them to write in information about their circumstances. They felt it should be written in plain English, that questions should be clear about their purpose, and that applicants should have support to complete the application if they need it.

Carers may need to confirm each year that they care for more than one disabled child to receive the new benefit. Half of respondents said they would want to confirm this via email and around a third by letter.

Some respondents commented that the payment should have wider eligibility. This included for carers of more than one of their children at any age, including after they turn 18. Others felt that there should be additional support for those who care for more than two disabled children, and that there should be support for parents with disabled children regardless of whether they receive a qualifying benefit. Panel members were also asked for their thoughts on what the new benefit should be called. There were a range of responses, most of which indicated that the name should include the term "carer", and refer to "children" or "families".

The second part of the survey asked about respondents' experiences of applying for Carer's Allowance. Almost three in ten respondents found out about Carer's Allowance through family or friends. One in five found out about it through DWP.

More than half applied for Carer's Allowance using a paper form and a third applied online. If they were to apply again, more than six in ten said that they would apply online. Around half of respondents said that they applied for Carer's Allowance sometime after the person they care for started receiving the qualifying benefit.

Respondents were asked what worked well about the application process. Responses included finding the process quick and straightforward, helpful staff and being able to apply online.

When asked what did not work well, respondents highlighted the reliance on qualifying benefits as a cause of stress, the repetition of questions and lack of clarity in the application form, the waiting period for payments, and coming across errors in the process. Some also highlighted a lack of awareness about the availability of Carer's Allowance and the need to make it more accessible.

Overall, 60 per cent of panel members described their experience of Carer's Allowance as "good" or "very good". However, a number of problem areas were also identified. These included the payment amount, which was felt to be much too low, and gaps in payments, for example when the person cared for is in hospital.

Most respondents also felt that the eligibility criteria were unfair. In particular, the rules around working or studying while receiving Carer's Allowance were felt to limit people's ability to improve their situation and were not felt to be reflective of the reality of carers' daily lives. Respondents also felt that it was unfair for Carer's Allowance to stop at pension age, when the caring responsibilities continue.

Finally, they commented that it was hard to understand how Carer's Allowance would impact other benefits, and felt it was unfair that if you receive Carer's Allowance other payments would reduce, often by the same amount.



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