Charity calls for new carers’ benefit to be extended to pensioners in Scotland

A charity has called for a new benefit to be paid to older adult unpaid carers receiving the State Pension after 82% of them said in a new report that their role had had a financial impact upon them.

A total of 450 people were surveyed as part of research by the Carers Trust Scotland titled “Experiences of Older Adult Unpaid Carers in Scotland” about the challenges they face.

The carer support payment will replace the carer’s allowance for new applications in Scotland and will be piloted by the end of this year ahead of a full rollout by Spring 2024.

While carers who are pensioners can claim carer’s allowance under UK Government rules, they may not be entitled to full amounts of both benefits.

The Scottish Government have not yet confirmed if the new benefit will operate under the same scheme.

Many unpaid carers experience financial difficulty, according to the report, with 82% of respondents feeling their caring role has financially affected them.

There was also anger and frustration from older adults no longer in receipt of Carer’s Allowance due to receiving a full state pension with many feeling they are financially penalised due to their age.

Almost two-thirds (65%) of respondents said that they experience feelings of loneliness some of the time, and a further 19% said they often felt lonely.

A quarter of respondents (25%) said they do not feel as if they have the support they need as an unpaid carer and not having the support prevents many from being able to have a break.

Older carers have also been affected by the cost-of-living crisis, with many sharing ways they have tried to save money over the past 12 months.

The report says:

  • 37% have used less gas/electricity in their homes;
  • 35% have cut back on essentials;
  • 19% have skipped meals, and 16% have used a food bank;
  • 27% have used their pension pot for everyday expenses.

The charity has put forward recommendations for support for unpaid carers, services and staff and is calling for the Scottish Government to extend Carer Support Payment to older adult unpaid carers with underlying entitlement who are receiving State Pension and ringfenced funding to local carer organisations.

Additionally, Carers Trust Scotland is calling for specific programmes aimed at combatting social isolation and loneliness amongst older adult unpaid carers to be developed.

Jim Guyan, an unpaid carer from Shetland, said: “This report highlights the continuing lack of recognition and support given to elderly unpaid carers by the establishment. It also makes recommendations that require action immediately.”

Becky Duff, director of Carers Trust Scotland, said: “The changes in demographic trends in Scotland has seen our population begin to age over recent decades.

“It is therefore vital that we understand the challenges facing unpaid carers aged 65 and above which will be key in helping us support them.

“The research report highlights that older adult unpaid carers across Scotland experience numerous impacts to their everyday lives, including in health, finances and support in their caring role.

“Many older unpaid carers have also faced challenges with employment, whether that is throughout their career and not having the same opportunities as those who don’t have caring roles, or in having to give up employment early due to their caring role.

“We are pleased to publish this report and believe every effort should be made to support the implementation of the report’s recommendations, which we believe will support older adult unpaid carers across Scotland.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said it recognised the “incredible contribution Scotland’s unpaid carers make to our communities and the considerable pressures many carers are under”.

“We have heard the concerns of carers whose payments of carer’s allowance stop when they start getting state pension. While in practice they are no worse off as state pension is paid at a higher rate and they may get extra amounts in other benefits, we know they can feel a loss of recognition for their vital caring role,” the spokesman said.

“We are continuing to work with carers and support organisations to look at how our replacement for carer’s allowance – carer support payment – can work better than carer’s allowance.

“Our recent Scottish carer’s assistance consultation invited views on alternative support which could be considered for long-term carers, including those getting state pension. We plan to explore this further.”

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