I would like to thank all of Scotland's unpaid carers for all they do. The impact of the support that carers provide to their family members and friends, and of course society, cannot be overstated. That is why the support that the Scottish Government provides is so important.
This consultation seeks your views on Scottish Carer's Assistance, a new Scottish Government benefit, which will replace Carer's Allowance.
Launching Scottish Carer's Assistance will be our highest priority following the delivery of Adult Disability Payment in August this year, the extension of Scottish Child Payment for 6 to 16 year olds by the end of this year (subject to the Department for Work and Pensions providing the necessary data), and our low income winter heating benefit in winter 2022/23. As part of our joint programme of work to devolve social security, we are working with the Department for Work and Pensions to see how quickly we can deliver Scottish Carer's Assistance.
Our work on Scottish Carer's Assistance builds on the progress we have already made for unpaid carers, with two of our seven new and unique benefits being designed to support carers – the Carer's Allowance Supplement which provides over £460 a year, and the Young Carer Grant.
As Minister for Social Security and Local Government, as well as a constituency MSP, I have had the opportunity to discuss what being a carer means with a number of unpaid carers in different communities. I am always struck by the commitment and dedication, day in, day out, of unpaid carers, and I appreciate that the pandemic has hit people particularly hard. I was therefore pleased that we were able to provide some extra support with an additional Carer's Allowance Supplement payment in both 2020 and 2021.
Social security is a human right and we are building a better and more compassionate Scottish social security system based on the principles of dignity, fairness and respect. We have already delivered 11 benefits, including more generous replacement benefits and seven completely brand new forms of support, including our Best Start Grants and Scottish Child Payment.
Following the successful introduction of Child Disability Payment last year, we have begun the transfer of cases from the Department for Work and Pensions to Social Security Scotland. Next month we will introduce Adult Disability Payment in pilot areas with a full roll out at the end of August. This will be the biggest and most complex of the devolved benefits we will deliver, replacing Personal Independence Payment for people in Scotland.
And now, we turn to Scottish Carer's Assistance. We have been listening to, and working with, carers and the organisations who support them to develop the proposals we have set out in this document – including our Carer Benefits Advisory Group and Disability and Carers Benefits Expert Advisory Group. I am grateful to the members of these groups, to our Experience Panels, who provided input from their direct lived experience, and to everyone who has contributed to the development of these proposals.
This consultation sets out how we plan to deliver an improved benefit from the start, linking carers to wider services and making support available when the person they care for is challenging a change to their disability benefits. We will also create a new payment of £10 per week for those caring for more than one person, as well as keeping the extra support provided through Carer's Allowance Supplement.
When we have introduced our new benefit and finished the transfer of benefits for people currently getting Carer's Allowance to Scottish Carer's Assistance, we are proposing to make further changes. We will continue to look for opportunities to make these changes sooner if we can.
These changes would help remove barriers to education, allow carers to add together hours spent caring for more than one person to qualify for support, extend support after the loss of a cared for person or when a cared for person is in hospital, and enable carers to earn more from paid work. We want to hear your views on these plans, other potential changes beyond these, and your thoughts on how the changes can help address inequality and poverty.
We also know how important it is that any changes that we make don't do anything which would risk the other financial support carers already get from reserved benefits provided by the Department for Work and Pensions. The proposals in this consultation reflect our commitment to a safe and secure transfer of benefits for carers already getting Carer's Allowance, from the Department for Work and Pensions to Social Security Scotland. This will protect the wider support carers currently get and avoid creating a 'two-tier system', as that would disadvantage some carers.
This consultation also recognises that our work to deliver Scottish Carer's Assistance is just one part of a range of work already underway – such as the introduction of a National Care Service and work to look at a Minimum Income Guarantee for all – which has the potential to deliver significant improvements for carers. This consultation will also contribute to the development of our Carers Strategy, which we will publish in late spring this year.
The proposals we have set out here reflect our ambition to deliver a better benefit from day one, as well as a benefit which will continue to improve and evolve to meet the needs of carers in the future.
I would encourage you to have your say on the future of this important benefit.
Ben Macpherson MSP
Minister for Social Security and Local Government