Deliver a progressive and ambitious model of social security.
Initiate an independent review of social security for disabled people and create a world-leading system, according to the six principles detailed in the Scottish Campaign on Rights to Social Security’s ‘Beyond a Safe and Secure Transition’ report.
The devolution of powers over social security for disabled people presents Scotland with the opportunity to shape a world-leading, rights based system of support. The Scottish Government prioritised ‘safe and secure transition’ to minimise disruption to people’s payments as administration transfers to Social Security Scotland. While safe and secure transition is desirable, the ALLIANCE is concerned that the current process will leave many parts of the existing system intact that have caused barriers to disabled people receiving the payments they are entitled to.
As part of the Scottish Campaign on Rights to Social Security (SCoRSS), the ALLIANCE has contributed to a shared vision for a new social security system based on six core principles.[i] This includes taking a human rights based approach to the development of disability assistance to better support disabled people’s right to independent living. It also calls for adequate payments that consider the extra costs disproportionately faced by disabled people and those with long term conditions, and whole-of-life support.
The next Scottish Government should commit to creating a world-leading rights based social security system for disabled people. They should initiate an independent review of disability assistance that is accountable to, and co-produced with, people in Scotland – including both those currently entitled and those who are not entitled to disability assistance. The review should pay particular focus to the six principles identified by SCoRSS, which are that the Scottish social security system should:
- Have a clear purpose
- Be human rights based
- Support equal participation in society and independent living
- Be adequate
- Provide whole-of-life support
- Interact well with future social security developments and is well connected to other services
Increase the earnings threshold and remove restrictions on full-time education for unpaid carers seeking to access social security.
Social security is an important income source for unpaid carers in Scotland, many of whom have had to give up employment or education to provide vital support. During COVID-19, over 390,000 people became unpaid carers, bringing the total to over 1 million.[ii] Pre-pandemic estimates have valued their contribution as ranging between £10.9 billion[iii] to £36 billion.[iv]
Powers over the current Carers Allowance have been devolved to Scotland. The Scottish Government has made several short-term changes, such as the introduction of a Carer’s Allowance Supplement to increase the value of the payment, and a Young Carer Grant for 16 to 18 year olds. A longer-term replacement – Scottish Carer’s Assistance – is planned during the next Scottish Parliament term.[v]
Proposals to develop a replacement are welcome, however further changes to current restrictions are needed to expand entitlement to more of Scotland’s unpaid carers. Priority should be given to remove the 21 hour study rule, which means that carers (including young carers aged 16-17) must choose between education and caring. This would be in keeping with the Scottish Government’s commitment that “caring should not be a barrier to education, social and leisure opportunities, or accessing education or employment.”[vi] Studying full time can support the wellbeing of carers and help them prepare for when they are not in a caring role.[vii]
Additionally, the new payment should remove the earnings limit for Carers Allowance or ensure that it is uprated to take account of increases to the National Minimum Wage. The limit (and its ‘cliff edge’ nature) gives little flexibility to unpaid carers who wish to work a few extra hours on a particular week as any financial benefit is likely to be lost due to Carers Allowance being cut completely.[viii]
Download the ALLIANCE 2021 Scottish Election manifesto at the link below.
[i] Beyond a Safe and Secure Transition: A Long Term Vision for Disability Assistance in Scotland – Scottish Campaign on Rights to Social Security, August 2019