The Carer’s Assistance (Carer Support Payment) (Scotland) Regulations 2023: scrutiny report

The Scottish Commission on Social Security's scrutiny report on the draft Carer’s Assistance (Carer Support Payment) (Scotland) Regulations 2023

1. Introduction

The Scottish Commission on Social Security (SCoSS) is pleased to present its report on The Carer’s Assistance (Carer Support Payment (Scotland) Regulations 2023 (referred to in this report as the ‘draft regulations’).

Carers are defined by the Scottish Government as “people who provide care and support to family members, other relatives, friends and neighbours.” They are not paid workers and they are not volunteers. Their contribution is estimated to be of economic value of £13.1 billion per year to the Scottish economy1 but it is invaluable to the many thousands of people they care for.

Despite this, carers in Scotland are more likely to have below average incomes and to live in areas of social deprivation2  with nearly 60% of carers in receipt of Carer’s Allowance (CA) also claiming an income-related benefit.3 Women are overrepresented in caring roles4 and carers often live with long-term health conditions themselves.5 A significant proportion of carers are aged 55 or over.621% among those aged 55-64. Whilst the proportion of people caring over the age of 65 steadily decreases from this level it remains significant with 7% of those aged 75 and over providing care.

In 2018, following the devolution of responsibility for carer benefits, the Scottish Government and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) entered into an agency agreement through which the DWP has continued to deliver CA to people in Scotland. After the necessary regulations have been approved by the Scottish Parliament, Carer Support Payment (CSP) will replace CA in Scotland and will be delivered by Social Security Scotland initially through a pilot in late 2023 followed by

a national launch in Spring 2024.7 The agency agreement with the DWP is expected to remain in place until all 125,514 carers entitled to CA in Scotland8 DWP StatXplore, November 2022. are transferred to CSP.

Many of the provisions in the draft regulations are broadly the same as the existing regulations for CA.

“This is to protect the safe and secure transfer of benefits for carers in Scotland who are already receiving CA, until the point that this transfer process is complete. It is also intended to avoid a ‘two tier system’ during this time in which carers receiving Carer’s Allowance and Carer Support Payment would otherwise be treated differently.”9

There are, however, some significant changes from CA which are intended to be introduced from its launch, particularly widening access to full-time students. We consider these changes in section 3 of this report.

The Scottish Government has committed to more changes once the transfer of carers on CA is complete, for example, introducing a Carer’s Additional Person Payment. These changes are outlined in section 7 of this report.

There is no dedicated international instrument setting out the human rights applicable to carers. However, the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) has published an extensive guide19 identifying a number of rights, or categories of rights, as particularly relevant to carers. Several merit particular consideration in SCoSS’s scrutiny of the draft regulations. The Scottish social security principles are listed in Annexe C. The principles are embedded in Our Charter which sets out what people can expect from the social security system.20 As for other Scottish benefits, the principles and charter underpin policy development, regulations and delivery of CSP.

As a non-means-tested benefit for individual carers, CSP can offer a right to social security (principle b) and, alongside other benefits, contribute towards meeting the right to an adequate standard of living.21The right to an adequate standard of living is protected by Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) By providing an income for unpaid caring, CSP can to some extent support carers to combine caring with other family responsibilities thus contributing towards the right to respect for family life,22The right to respect for family life is protected, for example, by Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights although this is also dependent on whether social care services can offer carers and the person they support the opportunity to exercise choice and control over the care provided and received. Our Charter commitments to invest in people to ensure they can play a full and active part in society23 Our Charter, Part 4, Expectation 4: ”Use social security powers to help ensure people can play a full and active part in society.” are particularly relevant to CSP. Carers may need this income to take part in social activities and to support the cared for person to do so.

Building on the positive response of carers to the ‘trust-based’ CA claims process, which does not routinely seek to assess daily care, contributes towards respecting the dignity of individuals (principle d) and expectations included in Part 1 of Our Charter.24 Our Charter, Part 1: ”A People’s Service”

As CSP is a complex benefit with multiple interactions with reserved benefits, some charter expectations will be especially challenging to fulfil, for example communicating in a way that meets carers’ needs, consistent and accurate decision-making and improving take up.

The development of CSP has been characterised by the significant level of stakeholder engagement, research and consultation undertaken by the Scottish Government (principle f) and further engagement on longer-term changes is promised. This has been a visible demonstration of involving people with diverse lived experience of social security in developing policy as promised in Our Charter and designing policy with the people of Scotland on the basis of evidence (principle f). It has led to improvements in CSP some of which will be introduced from launch, such as widening access to carers in education.

Policy choices do not always fit neatly into one social security principle or another. There are overlaps and trade-offs. The limited scope for more improvement to CSP until everyone entitled to CA has transferred to CSP, in terms of the social security principles, is perhaps a trade-off between the principle of continuous improvement of the system (principle g) and that of delivering an efficient system which is value for money (principle h). However, the early planning for further improvement through research and consultation already undertaken offers opportunities to make improvements quickly once the transfer is complete. One such opportunity is to improve rights for unpaid carers who want to take paid work. The existence of a carers’ benefit can enhance the scope for carers to choose between paid employment and unpaid care work. However, the earnings limit in CSP (and CA) could also act as a disincentive to paid work given how few hours a carer can work before reaching the limit.

CSP also represents an opportunity to advance equality and non-discrimination (principle g(ii)) especially as many recipients are expected to be women. That many carers could also be disabled has been recognised, and meeting this principle may entail reasonable adjustments to policy and practice.

Back to top Skip to content