Social Justice and Social Security Committee
Carer's Benefit Policy
Letter from the Minister for Social Security and Local Government of 16 June 2021
Carer’s Allowance Supplement (Scotland) Bill
I would like to welcome you and Committee members following your appointments to the Committee and I look forward to working with you all in the years ahead.
On 1 June 2021, the Carer’s Allowance Supplement (Scotland) Bill (“the Bill”) was submitted to the Scottish Parliament for its three week pre-introduction period. Ahead of introduction, I am writing to seek your support for an expedited timetable for this Bill to ensure much needed further financial support is provided to unpaid carers in December 2021.
We introduced Carer's Allowance Supplement in September 2018 and it has subsequently paid out £129 million to more than 113,000 carers since its launch. Eligible carers receive a payment every six months, in June and December, and each payment is £231.40 in 2021/22.
The Scottish Government is committed to supporting unpaid carers to protect their health and wellbeing so they can continue to care if they so wish and have a life alongside caring and recognises the added pressures that carers have had to deal with as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. This is why we paid an extra payment of Carer’s Allowance Supplement in June 2020 to support carers with the impacts of the pandemic.
This Bill seeks to make provision for another extra Coronavirus payment with the December Supplement this year. This is a further investment of £21 million, paying an extra £231.40 each to around 91,000 unpaid carers in Scotland on the lowest incomes and with the most intense caring roles.
The pandemic has identified a need for greater flexibility within the system for providing financial support to unpaid carers. The Bill, therefore, also proposes to confer a delegated power on the Scottish Ministers to enable the Scottish Ministers to introduce regulations to provide unpaid carers who receive Carer’s Allowance with extra financial support if necessary.
Assuming Parliament agrees, to ensure that this additional Coronavirus Carer’s Allowance Supplement amount can be paid directly to carers with the December 2021 Payment, provisions within this Bill are required to secure Royal Assent and be in force in November 2021. This, therefore, means the bill will need to reach stage 3 by 7 October 2021.
I appreciate the implications such a timetable will have for the Committee’s immediate work programme, especially as the Committee has only just convened and that you will want to ensuring sufficient scrutiny of the Bill. However as you can see the timetable is quite tight if we are to ensure carers are paid this year.
Therefore, my officials and I would be pleased to engage with you as soon as possible and to organise a briefing session on the Bill with members and will liaise with clerks on this. I have attached with this letter a briefing on Carer's Allowance Supplement (Annex A) and would be happy provide any further information that Members might require to help with consideration and scrutiny of the Bill. I also look forward to appearing before the Committee during stage 1.
Carer’s Allowance Supplement
Carer’s Allowance Supplement was the first benefit to be introduced in 2018 in recognition of the vital role of carers and to address the fact that Carer’s Allowance was the lowest of all working age benefits.
Paid twice annually by Social Security Scotland, Carer's Allowance Supplement was initially set at level which would raise Carer’s Allowance to the equivalent of Jobseeker’s Allowance, but following uprating of the Supplement, the combined Carer’s Allowance and Carer's Allowance Supplement support (£76.50 per week in 2021/22) is now more than Jobseeker’s Allowance (£74.70). Carer’s Allowance Supplement is currently £231.40. Around 83,800 carers in Scotland were eligible for Carer’s Allowance Supplement at the last eligibility date in October 2020.
Carer’s Allowance Supplement has two main policy objectives:
• to improve outcomes for carers by providing some additional financial support (specifically, to impact positively on carers’ finances and quality of life (including physical health, mental health and wellbeing, and feelings of control and empowerment)); and
• to recognise the contribution that carers make to society.
Provision for Carer's Allowance Supplement was included in the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018 (“the 2018 Act”). Section 81 makes provision for each payment to the equivalent of 26 times the difference between Carer’s Allowance and Jobseeker’s Allowance on the qualifying date. Section 81 does not make provision for this amount to be modified by secondary legislation. As a result, the Scottish Government is required to introduce new primary legislation if it wishes to alter the amount of a Carer's Allowance Supplement payment.
Carer's Allowance Supplement is paid twice a year automatically to everyone identified as being in receipt of Carer’s Allowance on eligibility dates set by Scottish Ministers. The payment is automatic for residents in Scotland (individuals claiming from the European Economic Area or Switzerland have to complete an application form). The evaluation of Carer’s Allowance Supplement, published in November 2020 found that carers feel the process of receiving the benefit automatically is user friendly and simple.
Carer's Allowance Supplement was introduced as a temporary payment to raise the level of Carer’s Allowance until the introduction of Scottish Carer’s Assistance. The Scottish Government has set out draft aims for Scottish Carer’s Assistance in a discussion paper, published in March this year, and we are working with carers and stakeholders to deliver a benefit that works better for the people of Scotland.
In December 2020, the Scottish Government published an evaluation of Carer’s Allowance Supplement, providing learning about the overall implementation of the benefit and the extent to which the objectives of Carer's Allowance Supplement have been met. It indicates that in general Carer’s Allowance Supplement has impacted positively on carer finances and quality of life and that it has provided greater recognition of the essential societal contribution that carers make and, in exceptional cases, the research suggested that Carer's Allowance Supplement had a transformative impact on carer mental health and wellbeing.
Coronavirus Carer’s Allowance Supplement
Around 83,000 carers received the Coronavirus Carer’s Allowance Supplement in June 2020. The specific aim of this additional payment was to recognise and help mitigate the impacts of additional caring responsibilities and financial impacts, in the shape of negative impacts on household finances and health and well-being, as a result of the spring lockdown on unpaid carers.
We were able to do this through the Coronavirus (Scotland) (No.2) Act 2020 where we amended Section 81 of the 2018 Act with the effect of adding an additional £230.10 to awards of Carer’s Allowance Supplement for the period from 1 April 2020 to 30 September 2020. The majority of these payments were received in June 2020 and this doubled the additional support eligible carers received, totalling an extra investment of £19.2 million.
We will be bringing forward legislation to make another Coronavirus Carer’s Allowance Supplement payment alongside the Carer's Allowance Supplement payment carers will receive in December 2021. The Scottish Government is also proposing to confer a delegated power on Ministers to enable regulations to be introduced to provide unpaid carers who receive Carer’s Allowance with extra financial support if necessary.
A standalone Bill is required to quickly ensure Scottish Ministers have the power to increase this payment. The Bill containing the proposed legislative changes will must receive Royal Assent in November 2021 in order for carers to receive this vital payment in December 2021.