Social security bill has “failed” carers most in need

Jeane freeman

Social security minister Jeane Freeman

Groups hit out after Scottish Government refuses to pin carers' allowance to inflation 

9th February 2018 by Robert Armour 0 Comments

Carers groups have rounded on Scotland’s social security minister Jeane Freeman for “failing” them in their “time of need".

They hit out after the Scottish Government refused to pin carers’ allowance to inflation, despite repeated warnings its initial uprating would soon be negated by the cost of living.

Carers allowance is one of the 11 social security powers devolved to Scotland as part of the Smith Commission's recommendations.

In April the Scottish Government will increase the benefit from £62.70 to the same rate as Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) - £73.10.

According to figures from Scottish Labour, matching carers’ allowance with JSA means the Scottish Government’s investment is set to fall from £35 million in 2018/19 to £30m in 2019/20 as a result of Westminsiter's benefits' freeze. 

Mark Griffin. Labour MSP, said Scottish ministers are “content to pass on Tory cuts".

Freeman argues that ministers will have “a statutory duty to review the rates of social security assistance annually” but rises in inflation – currently sitting at 3% in the UK – would soon see the allowance left behind by the cost of living.

Margaret Thompson of East Ayrshire Carers Forum said comparing carers allowance with JSA is “misleasding.”

“There’s a crucial issue here in that carers can’t work,” she said. "Often the role is full-time and Carers Allowance is all a carer has to service. JSA is awarded on the proviso you find work.  

“The whole pitch by Jeane Freeman of uprating carers’ allowance has been to bring it into line with JSA: is that such a good thing? JSA hardly affords a life, let alone a lifestyle.  

“Without being linked to inflation, this initial welcome increase will become very difficult to survive on if inflation continues to rise at the current rate.”

Meg Wright, director for Scotland for the Carers Trust Scotland, said: “While we welcome the Scottish Government’s commitment to increasing Carers Allowance and ensuring it is financially equal to other income replacement benefits, it is not always helpful to link carers' allowance with JSA.

“Carers Allowance is often received on a very long-term basis because caring roles can prevent carers from seeking or retaining full time employment; it does not adequately recognise in financial terms the significant contribution that carers make to the life and economy of Scotland, as even the new rate equal to JSA will only recompense carers at £2 per hour based on a 35 hour caring week.”

This increase will quickly become very difficult to survive on - Margaret Thompson

The Scottish Campaign on Welfare Reform has called for a “statutory requirement" for annual uprating of benefits – at the very least in line with inflation.

A spokesperson said: “A failure to include a similar commitment in statute in relation to devolved social security risks downgrading current requirements.”

Key amendments to the social security (Scotland) bill are currently being debated in Holyrood.

The bill is expected to reach the end of its second stage in March, with a final vote on the legislation due before the end of the parliamentary year.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We recognise the vital role that carers and young carers play in our society. Our draft budget for 2018-19 includes an additional £66 million to support expenditure by local government on social care, including for implementation of the Carers Act.

“Increasing Carer’s Allowance to the same level as Jobseeker’s Allowance is a key commitment for our new social security powers which will start in Summer 2018.

"This extra investment of more than £30 million per year, equates to a 13% increase for every person receiving Carer’s Allowance in 2018/19.”