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

Summary of recommendations and observations

Recommendation 1: Carer Support Payment aims to recognise the vital caring role provided by unpaid carers which was not a stated aim of Carer’s Allowance. The Scottish Government should work with carers and stakeholders to understand what changes to Carer Support Payment would provide that recognition and how wider carer support and services could be better joined up with social security.

Recommendation 2: Carer Support Payment’s aims should be reinforced in communications with carers in order that they remain clear and unambiguous.

Recommendation 3: To ensure its policy on carers aged 16 to 19 is designed on the basis of good evidence, the Scottish Government should undertake research on the relationship between access to benefit for young carers, incentives to take on larger caring roles and the impact on remaining in education.

Recommendation 4: If research finds that carer benefits do not incentivise young people to take on larger caring roles, the Scottish Government should consider widening access to carers aged 16 to 19 in full-time non-advanced education.

Recommendation 5: The Scottish Government should consider extending Young Carer Grant to include 19-year-olds in non-advanced education who are not eligible for Carer Support Payment in order to address the eligibility gap for this age group from launch.

Recommendation 6: We welcome the provision to set Carer Support Payment to £0 when earnings are over the limit. However, the Scottish Government should consider redrafting it to avoid any potential incompatibility with enabling powers or contradictions within the regulations.

Recommendation 7: To avoid the potential for confusion, the Scottish Government considers setting out in draft regulation 23 the situations in which a nil award of a qualifying disability benefit is intended to result in CSP being set to £0.

Recommendation 8: Regulations must clearly set out when one or another of the nil award provisions applies when a carer falls into more than one category. Award notices must also clearly set out which category the nil award comes under and explain to carers what the consequences of that are for their passported entitlement.

Recommendation 9: Given this is the first time that Social Security Scotland has administered an earnings test, the Scottish Government should detail plans to learn lessons so that any problems can be quickly identified and addressed, and improvements implemented in future benefit development including a review of staffing requirements.

Recommendation 10: To avoid overpayments developing, Social Security Scotland processes must respond quickly to changes in earnings identified through HMRC data feeds, and changes reported directly by individual carers.

Recommendation 11: The Scottish Government should work with carers to develop clear, easy to follow information so that carers can understand whether their earnings are below or above the earnings threshold. Information should be in a range of accessible formats and available from services and in locations where unpaid carers attend. This should include specific reference to how earnings are calculated.

Recommendation 12: The Scottish Government sets out the systems it plans to have in place to share data with the Department for Work and Pensions to ensure relevant changes in Carer Support Payment awards are quickly and accurately reflected in Universal Credit awards.

Recommendation 13: Appeal rights should be introduced against the recovery of overpayments.

Recommendation 14: The Scottish Government should consider writing off small sums of overpaid Carer Support Payment.

Recommendation 15: The Scottish Government should take steps from the launch of Carer Support Payment to deliver information, communication and processes tailored towards the needs of older carers to significantly improve their experience of the carers’ benefit system.

Recommendation 16: Case transfer letters should link older carers with Social Security Scotland’s Local Delivery service and other face to face services.

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.

Recommendation 18: The definitions of “couple” and “partner” in draft regulation 2 should be amended to reflect the definition used in the Welfare Reform Act 2012 and the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018.

Recommendation 19: The Scottish Government should amend references to the “care rate” of Child Disability Payment and Disability Living Allowance to refer to “the care component” of these benefits at the middle or highest rate.

Recommendation 20: The Scottish Government should ensure that the draft regulations include all required definitions of qualifying benefits and overlapping benefits.

Recommendation 21: Regulations for Young Carer Grant and Carer Support Payment about moving from one of these benefits to the other should be more clearly and accurately expressed to meet the policy intention.

Recommendation 22: If Employability Fund activity is no longer operational, regulation 13(5) should be amended to remove it from the definition of approved training.

Recommendation 23: The Scottish Government makes its intention explicit regarding whether the lower age limit for Carer Support Payment is intended to be the 16th birthday or the minimum school leaving age.

Recommendation 24: The provision in draft regulation 17 to avoid duplicating payments to carers by offsetting arrears of Carer Support Payment against means-tested benefits paid for the same period should be amended to provide an accurate amount to offset taking account of changes during the abatement period.

Recommendation 25: The Scottish Government should include safeguards to ensure that backdating of Carer Support Payment is a right rather than being at the discretion of Scottish Ministers, with an appropriate degree of flexibility to allow for eligibility requirements being met and alignment with set award weeks.

Recommendation 26: The Scottish Government ensures that regulation 19 provides that an application for Carer Support Payment, made after a decision on a qualifying benefit, is backdated to the point at which the disability benefit entitlement begins rather than when the decision on disability benefit is made. It should also provide for decisions made by the Department for Communities in Northern Ireland.

Recommendation 27: Draft regulation 16(4)(a) should be amended to clarify the eligibility requirements which must continue to be satisfied by a carer following the death of a cared for person.

Recommendation 28: Draft regulation 16(3)(k) should be amended to separate Training Allowance and Contributory Employment and Support Allowance.

Recommendation 29: In deciding between claims to Carer Support Payment from “rival carers”, the views of the disabled person whose care is involved should be sought where possible.

Recommendation 30: The Scottish Government should work with the DWP to develop systems to adjudicate fairly and effectively between “rival carer “claims and entitlements to Carer Support Payment, Carer’s Allowance and Universal Credit carer element.

Recommendation 31: Regulations should make clear the scope of the multiple applications rule, the provisions for removing entitlement and the right of appeal.

Observation 1: We welcome the widening of access to many students who will now be able to keep Carer Support Payment when they would previously have faced a choice of either keeping Carer’s Allowance or taking up opportunities for full-time study.

Observation 2: It is inherently confusing for carers and inefficient for the system to require applications from individuals who have an underlying entitlement and cannot be paid. We encourage the Scottish Government as they consider the future of CSP to work with the DWP on finding a better solution.

Observation 3: SCoSS welcomes being sent a full set of draft impact assessments relating to the draft regulations. In the light of limited data on some groups with protected characteristics, SCoSS also welcomes plans to tackle data gaps.


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