Ahead of a debate in the Scottish Parliament marking Carers Week 2015, the SNP is calling on the UK Government to devolve the powers needed to support Scotland’s carers.
 
The Smith Commission stated that the Scottish Parliament should have “complete autonomy in determining the structure and value of the benefits at paragraph 49 or any new benefits or services which might replace them” – this includes Carers Allowance.
 
However, in its current form the Scotland Bill appears to restrict how the Scottish Government can support carers – by defining them as over 16 and not in full time education or employment.
 
In addition to this, the roll out of Personal Independence Payments will impact carers currently receiving Carers Allowance and Disability Living Allowance – with some expected not to be eligible for any support at all under the new system.
 
There are an estimated 759,000 carers in Scotland – and around 29,000 of these are young carers aged under 16.
 
The Scottish Government is working to provide more support for carers – and the Carers Bill currently making its way through the Scottish Parliament will enshrine carers’ rights in law for the first time. It will also build on the £114 million funding the SNP Government has invested in programmes to support carers, and every carer will be entitled to their own support plan.
 
But harsh Tory welfare cuts threaten to undermine the good progress being made in Scotland.
 
Commenting, SNP MSP Joan McAlpine said:
 
“Carers play such a vital role in looking after loved ones – and we owe them a massive debt of gratitude.
 
“The Scotland Bill in its current form falls far short of the powers Scotland needs to thrive – and fails to meet even the powers set out in the Smith Commission. It also appears to restrict how the Scottish Government can support carers – by defining them as over 16 and not in full time education or employment. This could put obstacles in the way of the Scottish Government being able to mitigate the impact of the roll out of Personal Independence Payments.
 
“Scotland’s carers can’t afford Tory cuts to their support – we need full powers over social security in Scotland to allow us to protect, support and empower people who need help, rather than pushing them into poverty with punitive cuts and sanctions as the Tories are continuing to do.”
 
Last week, SNP MSP Christina McKelvie Christina McKelvie lodged questions at Holyrood seeking more information on the impact of these cuts.
 
Ms McKelvie said:
 
“Heartless Tory cuts are hitting women and disabled people hardest – and the roll out of Personal Independence Payments is now threatening to impact support for Scotland’s estimated 759,000 carers.
 
“Carers play such a vital role in looking after loved ones – and we owe them a massive debt of gratitude. The Scottish Government has made good progress toward ensuring more carers get the support they need, but Tory welfare cuts are putting that progress at risk. It is time for the Tories to come clean on the number of carers in Scotland that will lose out as a result of the roll out of Personal Independence Payments.”