Unpaid carers make a vital contribution to ensuring that their loved ones get the care they need; yet we know that the caring role can have impacts on carers’ own health and wellbeing, and their ability to have a life outside of caring. The Scottish Government's vision is to provide support for carers in a meaningful and sustainable way so they are able to work, engage in education, and have full lives away from caring if that is their wish. We want to make sure carers are recognised and their contribution is understood and valued by society, that their voices are heard, and their views and experiences are taken into account in decisions which affect them. That is what we have sought to deliver in the development of our social security support for carers.
The first benefit we delivered following the passing of the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018 was Carer’s Allowance Supplement in 2018. We are now providing thirteen Scottish Government benefits – seven of which are entirely new forms of financial support only available in Scotland. I am pleased to be setting out our plans for our fourteenth Scottish Government benefit. Carer Support Payment will replace and improve Carer’s Allowance. As with our disability benefits, we will introduce this initially as a pilot - at the end of 2023 - ahead of national launch in spring 2024.
From day one, this support will be provided in line with our principles of dignity, fairness and respect, and take into account the feedback from the consultation we held last year. We will provide a better service to carers from launch, providing information and advice on other support available and signposting to wider services. Over the longer term we will also link carers to other services at key moments of transition, such as the start or end of a caring role. This will include supporting carers to access opportunities outside of caring, should they wish to, by linking to information and advice on education, training, work, and other opportunities.
On launch, entitlement to Carer Support Payment will broadly mirror Carer’s Allowance to allow us to safely and securely transfer the awards of people in Scotland receiving Carer’s Allowance from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to Social Security Scotland and onto Carer Support Payment. However, I am pleased that from introduction we will introduce changes to the education rules so that many carers can access Carer Support Payment and study full-time, reducing barriers to education and helping to provide more stable incomes. We will also update the past presence test to align with that for our disability benefits, meaning those moving to Scotland from outwith the Common Travel Area will be able to access support more quickly.
We also intend to make a range of further improvements once case transfer is complete. Case transfer is a joint programme with the DWP and is a complex process, particularly regarding the Carer’s Allowance systems. We continue to work closely with DWP to ensure that case transfer can be completed as quickly as possible, while ensuring that it is done safely and securely in line with our published case transfer principles. This will also allow us to ensure future improvements are available to everyone at the same time, avoiding a ‘two-tier’ system of entitlement.
Our priority, following the completion of case transfer, will be to introduce new support for those caring for more than one person (known as Carer’s Additional Person Payment) and increase the ‘run on’ of support after a cared for person dies from 8 to 12 weeks. We will do this as soon as reasonably practicable while protecting the on-going delivery of the Carer Support Payment itself.
These proposed improvements have been developed following extensive policy development with stakeholders over a number of years and taking into consideration our aims for supporting unpaid carers, our manifesto commitments, equalities considerations, operational impacts and legal requirements. I am grateful to all those who responded to the consultation, particularly unpaid carers themselves, who I know have so many other demands on their time. Such feedback has been vital to ensure we build a new benefit that works for carers. The extremely positive response to the proposals for changes that we set out is testament to the valuable advice and input we received from carers, support organisations, members of our Experience Panels, our Carer Benefits Advisory Group, and the independent Disability and Carer Benefits Expert Advisory Group.
Our significant achievements in social security are despite our limited powers and a largely fixed budget, which has been shrinking in real terms due to soaring inflation. Yet our ambitions remain high and we are continuing to deliver real and meaningful change through Scottish Government benefits by uplifting incomes, supporting disabled people to live independent lives, and tackling poverty. We are helping more people in more ways and ensuring this new public service delivers for the people of Scotland. Introducing Carer Support Payment will be an important next step in that wider work.
Ben Macpherson MSP, Minister for Social Security and Local Government
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