New Carer Support Payment Announced

The Scottish Government plans to introduce a Carer Support Payment which will replace the Carer’s Allowance for any new applicants.

It will be administered by Social Security Scotland which manages benefits on behalf of the Scottish Government. The Department of Work and Pensions manages benefits on behalf of the UK Government.

The Carer Support Payment will be the 14th benefit to be introduced into Scotland. A pilot project of the new benefit will run towards the end of 2023 with the new payment planned to begin in the Spring of 2024.

In order for this to work the Scottish and the UK departments have to work together . Processes need to be in place that will ensure those already in receipt of Carer’s Allowance will have their award transferred automatically to Social Security Scotland – so that people will not need to reapply.

Social Security Scotland delivers the following benefits:

  • Best Start Grant Pregnancy and Baby Payment – one off payment of up to £642.35 from 24 weeks in pregnancy up until a baby turns 6 months for families who get certain benefits.
  • Best Start Grant Early Learning Payment – one off payment of £267.65 when a child is between two and three years and six months for families who get certain benefits.
  • Best Start Grant School Age Payment – one off payment of £267.65 when a child would normally start primary one for families who get certain benefits.
  • Best Start Foods – a pre-paid card from pregnancy up to when a child turns three for families on certain benefits to help buy healthy food.
  • Carer’s Allowance Supplement – an automatic payment made twice a year to people who get Carer’s Allowance through the DWP on certain dates each year.
  • Funeral Support Payment – money towards the costs of a funeral at a difficult time like this for people on certain benefits who are responsible for paying for a funeral.
  • Job Start Payment – £267.65 for 16 to 24 year olds who have been on certain benefits for six months or more to help with the costs of starting a job.
  • Young Carer Grant – an annual payment of £326.65 for people 16, 17 or 18 who care for people who get a disability benefit from the DWP for an average of 16 hours a week or more.
  • Child Winter Heating Assistance – a £214.10 payment to help families of a child on the highest rate care component of Disability Living Allowance for Children to heat their homes.
  • Scottish Child Payment – £100 every four weeks to help towards the costs of looking after each child under 16 for families who get certain benefits
  • Child Disability Payment – extra money to help with the costs of caring for a child with a disability or ill-health condition. It replaces Disability Living Allowance for children in Scotland that was previously delivered by the Department for Work and Pensions.
  • Adult Disability Payment – extra money to help people who have a long-term illness or a disability that affects their everyday life. It replaces Personal Independence Payment people in Scotland previously delivered by the Department for Work and Pensions.
  • Winter Heating Payment – a yearly payment of £50 to help people on low income benefits who might have extra heating needs during the winter.

Scottish Minister Ben MacPherson has announced that in 2024 £5.2 billion will be paid “through Scottish Government benefits—£776 million more than the funding that we are forecast to get from the UK Government through block grant adjustments—providing important support to more than 1 million people in Scotland”.

Opposition MSPs have criticised what they say is the slow roll out of some of the benefits which are only available in Scotland.

Ben MacPherson told the Scottish Parliament that Social Security Scotland have now received the data from the DWP needed for the 13th benefit—the winter heating payment. This amounts to a spend of £20 million each year to support eligible households, more than double the £8.3 million that, on average, the DWP provided through its cold weather payments during each of the past seven years. The Minister confirmed that the payments will be made automatically this month or next to up to 415,000 people who are eligible.

Highlands and Islands MSP, Labour’s Rhoda Grants focussed on the Winter Heating Payment. She said:

“It is truly unbelievable that again today we are hearing about further delays in implementing the Scottish Social Security System.  This new benefit pays a fixed sum of £50 instead of paying out £25 for every week of cold weather, which was paid by the benefit it replaces. 

“I am particularly concerned about the effects of this policy on rural areas.  We know that the rate of fuel poverty is significantly higher in rural off gas grid areas compared with the more urban areas of Scotland.   Before the cost of living crisis, those living in rural areas faced on average 30% higher costs of living.  In December 2021, 40% of people living in the Western Isles lived in fuel poverty compared to 13% in East Renfrewshire.  The Scottish average was 24% of all households. 

“The very places that have the highest fuel poverty will lose the most. Even Energy Action Scotland have warned that “lives will be lost due to the inadequate level of support provided” and they raised the concern that the new payment will have “less impact on fuel poverty than the benefit it replaces”. 

“It is desperately sad that the Tories Cold Weather Payment is more socially just than that of the SNP Government’s Low Income Winter Heating Assistance.”

The points were being raised during a debate in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday 7th February on Scotland’s Social Security System.

Emma Roddick Highlands and Islands MSP, SNP pointed out that with the previous system “Orkney, Shetland and Wick did not receive cold weather payments at all, and areas such as the Western Isles have very rarely received anything, given that those areas, which both of us represent, have the highest levels of fuel poverty”

And she continued:

“Twelve benefits have been introduced—it will be 13 later this month—by a new, progressive social security agency, which treats benefit claimants with dignity and respect, instead of suspicion and disdain. Seven of those benefits are available only in Scotland. The Scottish child payment and best start grants are already playing a huge part in tackling child poverty by providing parents with financial support over which they have complete control. Those unique benefits clearly show the Scottish Government’s priorities: tackling child poverty and tackling the cost of living crisis.

“I would say that it takes longer to do things properly but, given the DWP’s efforts on universal credit—which is still being rolled out, full of faults, more than 10 years after the introduction of the legislation that brought it in—that is possibly not true.

“However, it is worth doing this properly. It is worth listening to the disabled people who said that they would rather be treated with respect and be able to rely on payments. They would also rather that the system that administers benefits was compatible with the Government later deciding to uprate them, instead of having the archaic DWP system, which, according to the claims of UK Government ministers, does not allow them to increase payments if they want to”.

The Scottish Greens also pointed out the problems with trying to work with a UK system of paying benefits which was subject to decades of austerity.

Maggie Chapman, MSP for the Scottish Greens sated:

“We have had more than a decade of austerity; the two-child limit, also known as the rape clause; the benefits cap; and cuts to universal credit. Each of those decisions or policies, and so many more, were taken or implemented by the UK Government, and they make for a pretty bleak foundation on which to build our social security system.

“We would not choose to start with the uncertain foundation that the UK Government has created. That is because we want our social security system to support individuals and build the common good, to help to create strong communities, thriving families and healthy, confident, informed and compassionate children.”

Developing a Social Security System for Scotland is extremely complex, not only because it is doing so during a period when many Scots are struggling to pay basic household bills and it wants to ensure that those who need it are being supported. It has to work with the DWP to transfer over some benefits whilst the UK Department retains control over the main ones. And fundamental to the system in Scotland is that the people who are to receive the payments are consulted – to see what works best for them. That takes time and is why the new Carer Support Payment will have a pilot so that those who use it can have a say on it.

It is also of note that payments in Scotland are used to mitigate against the appalling Rape Clause and the Bedroom Tax put in place by the UK Tory Government.

Commenting on the delivery and delays faced by Social Security Scotland Ben Macpherson, Minister for Social Security in the Scottish Government said:

“We have built this social security system from scratch, working with the people who will use it to make sure that we provide an improved experience and one that treats people with dignity, fairness and respect.

“Our delivery progressed despite a global pandemic. This was recognised by Audit Scotland who commended us for continuing to ‘successfully deliver new and complex social security benefits in challenging circumstances’.

“We are already providing money that is making a real difference for families on low incomes, people who need help paying for a funeral, disabled people, carers, young people entering the workplace and to help people heat their homes. The people accessing this service are happy with it too – with 89% telling us their experience has been ‘good’ or ‘very good’.

“Our success to date has not made us complacent. Establishing new payments and transferring awards in a safe and secure way continues to be our priority. We have gained a significant amount of experience and knowledge through our delivery to date. This is all reflected in the timetable we have announced. I look forward to these payments being up and running and seeing the reach of our new social security system going even further – investing £7.3 billion by 2027-28 supporting 2 million people each year.”

image credit Noel Donaldson

Fiona Grahame

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