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

7. Future Changes

The rules and structure of CA are much the same now as they were in 1976 when it was first introduced. There are many ways in which the rules are seen as out of step with the needs of carers today. For example:

  • that removing payment from carers at pension age leaves people without recognition of their caring role
  • that the low earnings threshold is too restrictive and the rules too complex for carers who want to do some paid work
  • that it lacks the flexibility to recognise different caring roles such as caring for more than one person
  • that the low rate of benefit undervalues the work of unpaid carers

“How can Carer’s Allowance be considered income replacement – it’s certainly not a living wage.”1Participant at SCoSS roundtable, May 2023

With CSP, there is an opportunity to update rules and address some longstanding concerns. Given that a review of CA is overdue, it is welcome that the Scottish Government has already developed and analysed options2 and consulted with carers and stakeholders.3 This work informed changes made from the launch of CSP such as the widening of access to full-time students. It also resulted in a commitment to introduce more changes after case transfer is complete which address some long-standing concerns:

  • introducing a new £10 a week Carer’s Additional Person Payment for carers who get CSP and care for more than one person
  • paying CSP for twelve weeks after the death of the person being cared for instead of the current eight weeks
  • paying Short-term Assistance for carers while a challenge to a CSP decision is underway, and providing support to carers when the person they care for is getting Short-term Assistance while challenging their disability assistance decision

Other proposals remain under active consideration:

  • increasing the earnings threshold and introducing a ‘run on’ of support when earnings go over the threshold
  • extending CSP to carers spending who care for two different people for a combined total of at least 35 hours per week
  • continuing to pay CSP for longer when a person being cared for goes into hospital or residential accommodation
  • in the longer term, considering investing in a new payment to recognise the impacts on carers’ finances of a long-term caring role including older carers who currently would have only an underlying entitlement to CSP

There is an opportunity to align CSP better with human rights principles that are particularly relevant to social security support for carers, outlined in section 1.2 of this report. As proposals are further considered and developed, they could usefully be weighed according to the contribution they are likely to make to promoting, respecting and protecting carers’ rights. It should also be borne in mind that the aims of CSP are wider than those for CA, for example, that CSP is also made in recognition of carers’ unpaid role and its impact on their lives. The Scottish Government is likely to fall short of achieving these aims without going further than it has at the launch of CSP towards changing the structure or eligibility rules.

We accept that with a complex benefit like CSP that interacts with UK and other Scottish benefits and systems, it will take time to get proposed changes right, and that plans all come with a cost to the Scottish budget. However, some changes can be made more quickly to begin to contribute towards the wider aims of CSP and towards respecting carers’ rights. For example:

  • social security barriers to the right to take up paid employment4Article 6 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights could be reduced by equipping carers thinking about leaving or starting a job with detailed information and advice on the effect on their overall income from earnings, CSP and Universal Credit
  • delivering CSP to carers in a way that is joined up with wider services and other financial support so that carers are both better supported and feel that the impact on their lives of their unpaid carer role is recognised.

We have recommended in section 2 that the Scottish Government works with carers and stakeholders to understand how wider carer support and services could be better joined up with social security and what would provide recognition of the vital care role provided by carers.

Finally, there are also known issues with CA regarding the number of overpayments to carers in work and the impact on carers of repaying sums of money. To some extent this is an inevitable consequence of CA entitlement being dependent on earnings. However, there are ways that CSP rules could be redesigned and ways it could be delivered that could reduce the risk of overpayments. We have set out our views and recommendations in section 4 of this report on how this inherent risk might be mitigated. In view of the impact on carers, we consider that redesigning the earnings rules and threshold should be a priority for the Scottish Government plans the future of CSP.

Recommendation 17: Redesigning the earnings rules and threshold should be a priority for the Scottish Government’s plans for the future of Carer Support Payment.

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