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.

Designing a new benefit for carers of more than one disabled child

The first part of the survey looked into the design of a new benefit for carers of more than one disabled child or young person under the age of 18.

Respondents were first asked whether they care for more than one disabled child. The majority of respondents (89 per cent) did not care for more than one disabled child. Those who did (11 per cent) were asked further questions on how they would want to apply for this new benefit and the name of the benefit.

Table 7: Experience of caring for more than one disabled child (n=242)
Caring for more than one disabled child %
No 89
Yes 11

This was a total of 26 respondents. The findings in the rest of this section should be considered in the context of the low response numbers for this set of questions. Percentages are included to provide a sense of the proportion of responses only, and these should not be considered to be representative of any wider population.

Respondents who care for more than one disabled child were asked where they would want to see information about the new benefit. The most popular response was for information on this benefit to be sent as a leaflet with the Carer's Allowance Supplement letter (85 per cent). This was followed by being sent a letter specifically about this to you with a short application form (77 per cent). Being sent information through a carer's organisation was another common preference (69 per cent).

Some participants mentioned a few other ways information could be sent to them. These include GP clinics, schools and health centres.

Table 8: Finding information about the new benefit (n=26)
Information available %
Leaflet in with Carer's Allowance Supplement letter 85
Letter specifically about this to you with a short application form 77
Via carer's organisation (in person, email, post) 69
Social media 54
Community hubs 27
Other 19

Respondents were asked how they would want to apply for the new benefit. The most common response was online (65 per cent). The second most popular way was through a paper form (19 per cent).

Table 9: How respondents would want to apply (n=26)
Application channel %
Online 65
By paper form 19
By phone 8
Face to face with someone helping me 4
Other 4

Some respondents said the application form should be able to be completed through any channel.

"I think you should be able to apply online, via normal mail, and over the phone".

It was also suggested that support should be available for people completing the form online or over the phone.

"An advice line or live chat system where an agent can help the applicant through the process".

Short and simple

Respondents were asked how Social Security Scotland could make the application work for them. The majority of respondents felt that the application form should be short and simple.

"The shorter and simpler the form the better".

"The form needs to be in plain English, easy to understand with short concise questions".

Respondents explained that this was because their caring responsibilities take a lot of their time. Keeping the application short would indicate that Social Security Scotland values carers' time.

"Make it simple to fill out. I care for [multiple] disabled children so I don't have time to fill out lots of information".

"Make it short and simple. Time is something carers have very little of and it can be off putting having big complicated forms to fill in".

Some respondents felt that the application form should not to have too many tick boxes, and instead have open text boxes where they would have space to write information.

"Don't have too many tick boxes as so many of these don't really ask the right questions. Give boxes where additional information/fuller explanations can be given".

"Make the questions straightforward with space to add details personal to your own situation as everyone will have different needs".

Some participants suggested that Social Security Scotland should use the information it already has about clients to keep the application as short as possible. They suggested that this could include information about the benefits already received by the applicant and their children to automate the process.

"If it's basically automatic dependent on providing evidence of the two children you care for, then I think the only information requested should be identity details of claimant [and] identity details of children. The shorter and simpler the form the better".

Respondents also said that it would be helpful to ensure people are able to complete the form in their own time and come back to an application once they have started it.

"Having the ability to save it part way through would be advantageous as I often don't have a lot of time to sit down to plough through the lengthy forms. I also find that they take their toll on me mentally as well".

Wording of the application

Respondents said that to make sure the application form is easy to understand, the wording of the questions should be in plain English and straightforward. They felt it should be clear from the question what information is needed, without the applicant needing to get external support to complete it successfully.

"Word the questions so people understand what they are being asked so they can fill out without worry or pressure".

"Ask the questions you want to know instead of expecting the applicant to know how to word their answer. Be direct. This should make it easier for applicants to fill in the form without having to ask for help from charities".

One respondent suggested making sure the wording of the questions doesn't stigmatise applicants.

"It needs to be worded in such a way that it does not make the carer feel that they are begging for help".

Naming the benefit

Respondents were asked for suggestions for what they thought the new benefit should be named. Most respondents felt the new benefit name should include the word "carer". Many suggested a name that also included a reference to children or families. Some suggested a name that alluded to it being a supplement or addition to the existing Carer's Allowance payment, or a "support". 18 unique name suggestions were submitted. Two of these names were suggested twice. These were "Carer's Benefit" and "Carer's Support". The variety of responses can be seen in Annex B.

Confirmation of caring

With this new benefit, carers may need to confirm each year if they are still caring for more than one disabled child or young person under the age of 18 to continue receiving the benefit. Respondents were asked how would they want Social Security Scotland to get in touch with them to confirm this.

Half of the respondents (50 per cent) would want Social Security Scotland to confirm this through email. The second most popular response was through letter (35 per cent). 8 per cent said they would want a text message, 4 per cent said they would want to be contacted by phone and 4 percent gave another answer.

Table 10: How Social Security Scotland should get in touch to confirm caring role (n=26)
Communication channel %
By email 50
By letter 35
By text 8
By phone 4
Other 4

Entitlement to the benefit

When asked if there was anything else they would like to tell us about the new benefit or application process, many respondents said that this benefit should not be exclusively for those caring for children or young people under the age of 18. Instead, it should be available to parents whose children requires care at any age, including if their children are now adults.

"Just because they become 18 doesn't mean they automatically stop needing care".

"I think it should go beyond age 18. My eldest son will be 18 next year and I will still have the exact same caring responsibilities as now. The fact he turns 18 doesn't lessen the amount of caring I have to do".

Some respondents felt that further support should be for available for carers who have more than two disabled children.

"There should be an additional payment for each additional child".

"It needs to recognise that there are families where there are more than two disabled children in the family. I have [multiple] children with [a health condition]. Two have additional disabilities and they receive DLA, but all [of my children] need care".

Some respondents suggested that the criteria for receiving Carer's Allowance and Disability Living Allowance are too restrictive. They felt that this new benefit should be available to carers of disabled children, regardless of whether they have been successful in receiving these existing benefits.

"Since I started work three years ago I have been in almost constant dispute with the Carer's Allowance unit over my claim. Despite being well under the threshold I have only received Carer's Allowance for two months out of the three years. Therefore I do not receive Carer's Allowance Supplement and presumably would also not receive this benefit."

"I feel it should take into account people caring for disabled children who have been refused DLA yet have clearly got disabilities and paperwork from doctors etc to prove it."



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