Considered in Grand Committee
My Lords, I am grateful for the opportunity to debate this order, which is the result of collaborative working between the UK Government and the Scottish Government and supports the Scottish Government’s decision to introduce carer support payment in Scotland.
The Scotland Act 2016 devolved responsibility for certain social security benefits and employment support to the Scottish Parliament. The introduction of carer support payment in Scotland under the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018 exercises this responsibility. This order is made under Section 104 of the Scotland Act 1998, which allows for necessary legislative amendments in consequence of any provision made by or under any Act of the Scottish Parliament. Scotland Act orders are a demonstration of devolution in action. I am pleased to say that this order is the result of close working between the Scotland Office and the Scottish Government, the Department for Work and Pensions, the Ministry of Defence, His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs and Northern Ireland’s Department for Communities. I thank all involved for the collaborative approach taken to progress this order.
The order makes amendments to relevant social security legislation as a consequence of the Carer’s Assistance (Carer Support Payment) (Scotland) Regulations 2023, which were made on 25 October. I shall refer to these as the 2023 regulations. These regulations replace carer’s allowance with carer support payment for individuals ordinarily resident in Scotland. The 2023 regulations introduce carer support payment in Scotland in a phased approach from this month, beginning with a pilot in three local authority areas: Dundee City, Perth and Kinross and the Outer Hebrides or Western Isles. They have been chosen by the Scottish Government to take initial applications from carers across urban, rural and island communities in Scotland. Further local authority areas will be added to the pilot from spring 2024 and carer support payment will be available across the whole of Scotland by autumn 2024.
Carer support payment will initially operate in a broadly similar way to carer’s allowance. Like carer’s allowance, it will be an income replacement benefit—a payment of £76.75 per week for unpaid carers providing 35 hours or more of care a week to someone receiving certain disability benefits. However, there will be some differences, which I will spell out. First, carer support payment will have a shorter past presence test requiring claimants to have been present in the common travel area for 26 of the past 52 weeks. The requirement for carer’s allowance is to have been resident in Great Britain for 104 of the previous 156 weeks. Those good at maths will work out that that is two out of the past three years. Secondly, some students in full-time education will also be able to claim carer support payment, whereas people undertaking full-time education are not eligible for carer’s allowance, instead being supported through the educational maintenance system. The Scottish Government may choose to make further changes to this benefit in future.
I will now take a step back to consider how many people will be impacted by these changes. DWP is currently delivering carer’s allowance to around 120,000 unpaid carers in Scotland. Around 80,000 of them are currently receiving payments of carer’s allowance. A further 40,000 carers have an underlying entitlement to carer’s allowance enabling them to access additional amounts in other benefits, although they do not get paid carer’s allowance as they are paid other income replacement benefits.
I will now go on to explain the effect this order will have and the provision it will make. This order will ensure that those receiving carer support payment in Scotland are treated the same as those receiving carer’s allowance. The order ensures that carer support payment is a qualifying benefit for the Christmas bonus. It ensures that those eligible for carer support payment are treated as qualifying carers and are eligible to receive the additional amount for carers in an award of state pension credit. It ensures that recipients are not disadvantaged in relation to compensatory payments as part of the HMRC tax-free childcare scheme. The order also ensures that it is not possible for any one person to receive both carer’s allowance and carer support payment at the same time. Similarly, no more than one person would be able to receive a carer’s benefit for care provided to a single individual. There are some benefits, administered by Veterans UK, that overlap with carer support payment; this order makes provision to ensure that an individual cannot receive these overlapping benefits at the same time.
The order makes equivalent provision in Northern Ireland in respect of those policy areas that are transferred to Northern Ireland. This is because, when a claimant moves to Northern Ireland they will continue to receive carer support payment for 13 weeks from the date they move while they apply for carer’s allowance. In that time, their carer support payment benefit will continue to attract the related entitlements. The 13-week run of support will also be available when carers move from Scotland to elsewhere in the UK.
In summary, this order makes amendments to UK legislation to support the introduction of carer support payment in Scotland. It ensures that the new Scottish benefit is able to operate effectively and that its recipients are treated equitably. I commend the order to the Committee and beg to move.
My Lords, I once again thank the noble Viscount for the detail of what the statutory instrument does and does not do. It seems to me that it purely ensures that the carer support payment in Scotland is treated the same as carer’s allowance. That seems to be a good idea. I cannot see why anyone could disagree. It also seeks to ensure that there is no double claiming by playing one set of regulations off against another set. I would be grateful if the Minister could confirm my understanding of that is correct because, if it is correct, it seems very sensible. Could he come back to Parliament or write about how these regulations are being observed and give examples of success or failure? I think that to some extent his final comments cover this. I think he was referring to what had happened in the past. I am looking forward to an ongoing report about how these new regulations will help and to examples of success or failure. They need to be monitored in some way. I hope the Minister will be able to oblige as the situation evolves.
My Lords, as we have heard, this order relates to people who will be eligible for the new carer support payment, which is replacing carer’s allowance in Scotland. As the noble Lord, Lord Palmer, indicated, it covers two issues, one around benefit entitlement and the other around trying to avoid duplicate or overlapping benefits.
First, the order aims to ensure that people who get carer support payment are treated in the same way as those receiving carer’s allowance when it comes to entitlement to reserved benefits.
Three reserve benefits are named in the order, and the Minister referenced them in his opening speech: the Christmas bonus, the additional amount for qualifying carers on pension credit, and compensatory payments due in quite complicated circumstances under the HMRC tax-free childcare scheme. Is that a comprehensive list? Are there any other payments to which someone on carer’s allowance could be entitled which were not mentioned here or indeed in the order?
Secondly, I will ask something about the DWP’s role, if any, in the process of transferring claimants from carer’s allowance to carer support payment. As the Minister indicated, they are already starting to pilot the new benefit in three areas of Scotland from this month, and from next year the Scottish Government will begin to transfer the benefits of those already getting carer’s allowance so that they will begin receiving carer support payment instead. Is the plan for DWP to be in touch with those people to whom it currently pays carer’s allowance, or is that being left to the Scottish Government to do? Are there any people who are currently eligible for carer’s allowance who would not be eligible for carer support payment? The Minister mentioned some that are the other way around, perhaps where the benefit is more liberal in terms of eligibility, but are there any who would not be entitled to the new payment who are entitled to carer’s allowance? If there are any, whose job is it to contact those people?
The order also aims to ensure that there is no overlapping entitlement for different benefits or indeed different claimants caring for the same person. I think the Minister may have said this, but could he just clarify that those new arrangements mirror the existing ones for carer’s allowance?
Finally, the Minister mentioned that these regulations and this process have been the product of close working between a number of government departments and the Scottish Government. As the Scottish Government increasingly use their powers over time to diverge from arrangements within other parts of the United Kingdom, there will be a real opportunity there for all parts of the United Kingdom to learn more about what works. What arrangements are in place for the DWP to learn from the experience of the Scottish Government in creating new benefits like this, so that both the devolved Administrations and those in the UK central Government in Westminster in charge of reserve benefits can learn from each other’s experience? I look forward to the Minister’s reply.
I start again by thanking both the noble Baroness, Lady Sherlock, and the noble Lord, Lord Palmer. This is familiar territory but I thank them for their broad support. I will attempt to answer the questions that were raised, again in no particular order.
The first question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Palmer, was simply what this order does. I tried to set that out in my opening statement but perhaps I can answer it in a different way. This particular order, and an associated negative Section 104 order, makes provision in reserved areas to ensure that the 2023 regulations are fully operational at the time of implementation. It ensures that individuals in receipt of carer support payment are treated, as I said earlier, in the same way as individuals in receipt of carer’s allowance. That might answer a question that was raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Sherlock, on the treatment. It is similar treatment but in my opening remarks I alluded to some differences that were going to come through from the Scottish Government, particularly in terms of the treatment of students. As we know, of course, there are different educational arrangements for students in Scotland compared to England. I hope I made that clear in my opening remarks, in terms of the—
Just to clarify, what I was trying to say in the question was that the Minister had identified a couple of areas—one about residence requirements, the other about students—where people who are not currently entitled to claim carer’s allowance would be able to claim the new benefit. I was asking whether it was also the other way round; is there anyone who would not be entitled to the new benefit who is entitled to carer’s allowance, and if so, whose job is it to contact them? The Scottish Government would arguably have no locus in relation to them.
I must admit—please forgive me—that I thought that was a separate question, but I remember it and I shall try to answer it at some point.
The noble Lord, Lord Palmer, asked whether the order ensures that there is no double claiming. He wanted me to confirm that there is no double claiming, double counting or duplication—and I can confirm just that. I hope that I set that out in my opening remarks as well; that is also the aim, and also comes about from the very close collaboration of working that we have with the Scottish Government and, indeed, other parties that I mentioned in my opening speech.
The noble Lord, Lord Palmer, asked about the future, as did the noble Baroness, Lady Sherlock. On learning lessons and what we will gain from this order, particularly looking north of the border, can I say two things? One is that I have no doubt that there will be a way of finding out whether the three pilots mentioned were successful, however one might define that. I confirm that it is very much a matter for the Scottish Government — so this is an enabling series of regulations, which will enable the Scottish Government in a devolved manner to do what they feel is right. But I have no doubt that there will be a way in which we can find out.
On the noble Baroness’s point about learning from this—absolutely, she makes a very good point. When these different regulations are made in the right and proper way for the devolved nations, we should and will be, with our close collaboration, learning from any lessons that might be beneficial for us in England.
The noble Baroness asked how people should apply for the carer support payment. The application process is a matter for the Scottish Government, and questions on this should be addressed to them. That is not entirely helpful, but it falls in line with my point, which is that this is enabling the Scottish Government to make the changes that they will take forward themselves.
I was trying very carefully to ask questions of the Minister that related to his responsibilities and those of DWP, not the Scottish Government. I was not asking about how somebody would go about applying for the new benefit. There was reference in the order and Explanatory Memorandum to people being transferred from carer’s allowance to the new benefit. Until someone is transferred, the DWP has a responsibility for them. I was asking whether they could make any contact with those to whom they are currently paying carer’s allowance or whether they were leaving that entirely to the Scottish Government.
Unless there is a ready answer to that, I think that gets into the granularity of the transfer process, and I shall need to write to the noble Baroness to give her some proper information on that. Again, I make the point that there is a close collaboration between the UK and Scottish Governments. It is a fair question, and I think that I need to get some granular detail on that.
The noble Baroness, Lady Sherlock, asked about impact assessments. The answer is that orders made under the Scotland Act 1998 usually do not in themselves have a direct or indirect impact, whether benefit or cost, on businesses, charities or the voluntary sector, and would not therefore have a regulatory impact assessment. This is the case for this particular order. The noble Baroness may be aware—and I just want to confirm—that this is quite usual for constitutional measures in this respect. Implementing this order is not expected to have an impact on business, charities or voluntary bodies, and there is also not expected to be a significant impact on the public sector. The appropriate impact assessments were undertaken for the Carer’s Assistance (Carer Support Payment) (Scotland) Regulations 2023, when these regulations were prepared. No further assessments were required, as this order is a consequence of the 2023 regulations.
I have a couple of other questions that I should like to answer, which may help the noble Baroness with one of her earlier questions. I was asked when the Scottish Government would start and complete the transfer of individuals from carer’s allowance to the carer support payment. This may be helpful—I hope that it answers the question. From February 2024, the Scottish Government will begin the process of transferring the awards of around 130,000 people getting carer’s allowance in Scotland to carer support payments—it will be initiated by them. This will include around 40,000 carers with underlying entitlement only—carers who have entitlement to carer’s allowance but are receiving another overlapping benefit instead. Case transfer is a joint project between the Scottish Government and the DWP, which we intend to complete as soon as possible, while ensuring that the process is safe and secure. Case transfer for all disability and carer benefits remains on track to complete by the end of 2025.
The noble Baroness asked about similarities and differences in eligibility between the two benefits. I covered some of that in my opening speech, but this might answer one question that she asked. No one is eligible for the carer’s allowance who is not eligible for the carer support payment. That may be the succinct answer that she was looking for.
I hope that I have answered all questions. Again, as ever—with the number of questions that the noble Baroness rightfully usually asks—I normally look, and this case will definitely look, at Hansard, to be absolutely sure that I have answered them all. In the meantime, I beg to move.
Committee adjourned at 5.25 pm.