The Scottish Government has an overall aim that carers are supported on a consistent basis to allow them to continue caring, if that is their wish, in good health and wellbeing, allowing for a life of their own outside of caring. Social Security delivers one aspect of this overall government approach to supporting carers, including through the provision of Young Carer Grant.
Announced by the First Minister in 2017 as part of a package of support for young carers, it is a one off payment (£308.15 in 2021/22), which can be applied for annually, for young carers aged 16, 17 or 18 with caring responsibilities. It was launched in October 2019.
The overall aims of Young Carer Grant are to:
- help young carers improve their own quality of life by taking part in opportunities which are the norm for their non-caring peers
- provide some recognition of their unpaid caring role
This interim evaluation aims to provide learning about the overall implementation of the benefit over the first 18 months of delivery, and the extent to which the short and medium-term policy objectives of Young Carer Grant have been met. In doing so, it can also assess the likely contribution of Young Carer Grant to longer-term government outcomes for carers which take account of wider Scottish Government interventions outside of social security which are also designed to support carers.
The findings will provide groundwork for policy improvement and feed into the development for the full evaluation of Young Carer Grant scheduled for 2023/2024.
The interim evaluation contained three strands: analysis of management data, an overview of Social Security Scotland Client Survey findings (referred to as the "Client Survey" for the remainder of the report), and commissioned qualitative research with young carers, and stakeholders that work with them.
Delivery of Young Carer Grant
Young carers involved in the Client Survey and the commissioned research generally found the application process to be easy and straightforward. Young carers typically applied online and found this to be convenient and accessible. However, stakeholders indicated that difficulties with the application process could be a barrier to many other young carers, specifically those living in chaotic households where it is difficult for them to find the information they need in order to apply.
The commissioned research explored other barriers to applying for Young Carer Grant. Young carers and stakeholders identified a lack of awareness of the grant as a major barrier to those eligible to apply and the reluctance of young carers to take up the grant due to how they perceived themselves and their caring role. Stakeholders highlighted that a lack of consent from parents or the cared-for person could be a barrier.
Commissioned research also explored the impact of the requirement that only one young carer can receive the grant in respect of any one cared-for person, referred to as the 'one carer rule'. Although none of the participants had missed out on the grant due to this rule, they raised concerns that it could be unfair to carers who may still have a demanding care role, despite sharing responsibility with another young carer. There was also concern among stakeholders that the eligibility criteria for receiving the benefit were excluding too many young carers with significant caring responsibilities.
Overwhelmingly, young carers participating in the Client Survey felt that they had been treated with fairness, dignity and respect and had had a positive experience of Social Security Scotland.
Use of Young Carer Grant
Young carers that participated in the commissioned research used the grant in a wide range of ways and in very much the same ways as teenagers in general tend to spend their money: on clothes, socialising with friends, putting it into savings (for driving lessons, for example), on electronic devices, on hobbies and on presents for family. More exceptionally, they spent it on rent or food.
Impact of Young Carer Grant
Commissioned research indicated that Young Carer Grant had a positive impact on young carers' ability to take part in opportunities that are the norm for their non-caring peers. If they had not received the grant, participants generally indicated that they would have had to go without all or some of the things they purchased and missed out on the activities they had been able to take part in.
There was also evidence of the grant helping to increase young carers' sense of choice and control over their lives. Most immediately, participants in the commissioned research were generally clear that it was up to them how they spent the grant, and that, in the absence of the grant, they would have had to go without all or some of the things they purchased. More broadly, there was also evidence of it increasing young carers' sense of control over their lives, by making them feel more independent, more confident, less anxious and getting better at saving. Participants of the Client Survey also felt that the grant had "helped to control finances" "helped to pay for what was needed".
The majority of respondents to the Client Survey generally felt that social security payments had helped make a difference to their lives and almost all participants involved in the commissioned research reported that Young Carer Grant had made a positive (albeit not necessarily a very large) impact on their mental wellbeing, mainly by reducing stress and increasing confidence.
The impact on young carers' physical health was somewhat limited but there were examples of participants spending some of their grant on things that would benefit it - such as exercise equipment, gym membership and dance classes.
More indirectly, stakeholders participating in the commissioned research felt that the grant had the potential to open up access to other support (by encouraging people to find out if they were young carers; through sign-posting applicants to other services; and by encouraging applications for other support in the future).
However, there is a limit to what a financial payment can do and the grant had no direct impact on some of the negative aspects of being a young carer that were most commonly mentioned by participants in the commissioned research. This included a lack of time to relax, do their own thing and spend time with friends, as well as anxieties about the health of their cared for person.
Young carers participating in the commissioned research had mixed views on whether receiving the grant had helped them feel more recognised. Some felt that it had made no difference but, more commonly, young carers did feel that it had helped at least a little. There was a sense in which both the introduction and existence of the grant, and the fact that they had been deemed eligible to receive it, provided recognition and validation.
Conclusions and implications
The evaluation findings suggest that Young Carer Grant was welcomed and viewed broadly positively by applicants, recipients and stakeholders. As outlined, it also appears to be meeting its overall aims: to help young carers improve their own quality of life by taking part in opportunities which are the norm for their non-caring peers and to provide some recognition of their unpaid caring role. In addition, stakeholders felt that the grant had the potential to open up access to other support.
Though the application process and delivery of the benefit was generally viewed positively, the commissioned research did outline some considerations designed to improve the experience of Young Carer Grant. These mostly related to the promotion of the grant and how the grant is understood by young carers, as well as the eligibility criteria and application process.
Similarly, while there is evidence of the grant having a positive impact – on young carers' ability to do things that are the norm for their non-caring peers, on their sense of choice and control, on their mental wellbeing and on their feelings of recognition – there are limitations to what a financial payment can achieve.
The issues highlighted in this evaluation will be considered when reviewing benefit promotion activity and the application process. More broadly, the findings will be considered when developing future Young Carer Grant policy and the Scottish replacement for Carer's Allowance, which will be developed to complement existing and planned interventions to support carers both through social security and at a wider government level.