Devolution of social security powers give us a chance to stop young carers being denied vital support.Alison Johnstone MSP
Alison Johnstone MSP, Social Security spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, today (19 June) called on Scottish Ministers to use new devolved powers to provide financial support for thousands of young carers who currently miss out.
In a letter to Social Security minister Jeane Freeman, Ms Johnstone points out that of the 49,000 carers aged 16-24 in Scotland only around 7,000 provide enough hours of care under the current rules to qualify for Carer's Allowance. The UK Government insists only those providing more than 35 hours of care a week should be eligible.
The Green MSP is also urging the minister to provide an update on the Green manifesto pledge of a Young Carer’s Allowance, which First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said last year her government would consider introducing.
Alison Johnstone MSP said:
“The current rules around eligibility for Carer’s Allowance are complex and overly-restrictive. The Scottish Government has an opportunity to take a fairer approach, and provide financial support for thousands of young people providing substantial care that does not meet the 35 hour threshold.
“It’s also a concern that young people are denied access to carer’s allowance if they are already receiving a benefit such as Jobseeker's Allowance, as this does not take into account the additional costs of caring. Devolution of social security powers give us a chance to stop young carers being denied vital support.
“It has also been over a year since the First Minister announced that her government would explore the Green manifesto commitment of creating a young carer’s allowance. The 49,000 young carers in Scotland would welcome an update on that policy.”
“We will consider the introduction of a young carers allowance to provide extra support for young people with significant caring responsibilities. That proposal was in the Green Party manifesto—I think that it has real merit.” First Minister, 25 May 2016
Letter from Alison Johnstone to Jeane Freeman, Minister for Social Security:
The recently-announced campaign to encourage young people aged 16-21 to take-up Carers Allowance (CA) is very encouraging step in helping young carers access additional support. I warmly welcome the move and wish you the very best in encouraging more young people to claim the benefit.
However, the rules around eligibility for the benefit are complex and, in my view, overly-restrictive. As such, whilst there are 49,000 carers aged 16-24 in Scotland, the 2011 census shows that only around 7000 provide enough hours of are under the current rules to qualify. Young carers providing substantial care that does not meet the 35 hours requirement
Further, the ‘Overlapping Benefit’ rules mean that these young carers would not be able to claim CA if they are also claiming another income-replacement benefit such as Jobseekers Allowance. These rules are unfair as they do not take into account the additional costs of caring. Many carers use CA to meet these additional costs and not just replace income lost by not working.
Whilst both the proposed increase in the value of the benefit and the take-up campaign are very positive first steps to achieving a fair deal for carers, we need to look at more changes to the eligibility rules so that CA properly meets the needs of carers, both young carers and those of all ages.
I would also like to ask when the Scottish Government will be reporting back to Parliament on the outcome of its consideration of a Young Carer Allowance. This was a Green manifesto pledge at the previous Scottish Parliament election, and the First Minister announced that the Scottish Government would consider implementing the policy. During the Green Party debate on carers in April, the Cabinet Secretary for Health stated “I am pleased to report that we are making good progress in our commitment […] to explore the introduction of a young carers allowance for young people with significant caring responsibilities.”
Providing the support through Education Maintenance Allowance and alongside funding for Higher Education through the Students Awards Agency for Scotland would provide Young Carers with additional support without providing a disincentive to attend education.
Alison Johnstone MSP