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.

What did not work well about the Carer's Allowance application process

Reliance on qualifying benefits

A number of respondents highlighted that while the application for Carer's Allowance in and of itself hadn't been difficult for them, they had faced significant challenges and distress in applying for a qualifying benefit which had therefore also prevented them from receiving Carer's Allowance.

"I did have to wait until DLA came through and it would have helped to have it before. My son's diagnosis took a long time and in that time I had to sign on and look for jobs when it would have been incredibly difficult for me to hold down any employment because of my caring responsibility. This caused me stress and financial hardship. Perhaps a recognition that carers can be carers while they wait for diagnosis would help."

Repetition of questions in application

Some respondents said they felt the application process repeated the same questions, which some found to be stressful.

"You are asked repeatedly what sort of care you provide it gets overwhelming for most people".

They also felt that some of the questions were unnecessary to ask.

"A lot of stupid questions that had no relevance to looking after the person I am caring for".

Unclear application information

A few respondents said that the application form should be clearer in informing people what benefits stop them from receiving Carer's Allowance.

"Losing some of other benefits once accepted for Carer's Allowance".

"Maybe state what alternate benefits preclude you from receiving Carer's Allowance".

A few respondents also said the application form was not clear for people who have varying conditions.

"This ties into a wider problem with the DWP, wherein it doesn't account well for conditions that are variable".

Waiting period for payments

While some respondents said that they received their first payment quickly, many others felt that it took too long for the application to be processed and to receive Carer's Allowance.

"The wait for it to be approved and the allowance to actually be paid".

"Length of time to be informed [of] result".

A few respondents said that they had to wait between 11-13 weeks to receive a response on their application.

"The delay in processing. A standard 13 week processing time is stunningly bad".

"Waiting 11 weeks before I got a decision. 11 weeks of no income whatsoever".

Accessibility and awareness

Many respondents felt that Social Security Scotland should ensure that applying for Carer's Allowance is accessible for everyone and that people are made aware of their entitlement. Some people said that it had taken them a long time to find out about Carer's Allowance and realise that they would be eligible.

Respondents felt that applications and correspondence should be conducted through people's preferred communication channel - whether that is online, on paper, over the phone, or another way.

"Don't assume everyone can or wants to do things online, there should always be an option to do things offline".

It was suggested that it would be valuable to have someone to call who could help them complete the application.

"Maybe having someone on a helpline or being able to apply over the phone would maybe help too as paperwork doesn't work for everyone".

Errors in the application process

A number of respondents described experiencing processing errors with their application. This included applications being lost and needing to repeat answers.

"The organisation claimed they lost the paperwork. I had to call daily for updates. The application repeated the same questions over and over and were difficult to answer."

"I had to re-apply due to DWP error."

Some respondents suggested that staff were not equipped with the knowledge or skills to help applicants or process the application. Others highlighted experiences where their payment had been miscalculated, for example due to errors in the dates they are recorded as being eligible for payment. Respondents also said there was a lot of duplication of paperwork like letters.

"However there is quite a lot of bureaucracy, pedantry, and stupid mistakes made by the CA Unit such as making incorrect calculations relating to dates."

"An awful lot of letter duplication which is a waste of resources and money!"



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