Coronavirus and carers benefits in Scotland
This briefing looks at changes that have been made to carer’s benefits in Scotland due to the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Note: if you claim carer’s allowance or the carer element of universal credit this can mean that the person you care for loses money, if they get a ‘severe disability premium’. You should get advice before claiming if you think that the benefits of the person that you care for might be affected.
This briefing covers:
Carer’s allowance and the carer's allowance supplement
To get carer’s allowance (CA) you have to care 35 hours a week or more for someone who gets the right kind of disability benefit. These are often called ‘qualifying benefits’. Read about the qualifying benefits for CA.
You cannot qualify for carer’s allowance if you are in full-time education or earn too much.
Qualifying benefits for carer’s allowance
The ‘qualifying benefits’ that the person you care for must get are:
disability living allowance middle or highest rate care component;
personal independence payment daily living component;
attendance allowance;
armed forces independence payment; or
‘constant attendance allowance’ of £72.80 a week or over as part of an industrial injuries benefit or war pension.
These benefits can be awarded for a fixed period. If they stop, then your CA will stop. If the person that you care for gets one of these benefits and their award is due to end within the next year, see CPAG’s briefing on disability benefits and coronavirus for advice on what to do.
Breaks in care due to coronavirus
If you already get CA, the rules have always allowed for a break in care of up to four weeks (longer if you or the person you care for are in hospital). Since 3 April 2020, if you already get CA, a longer break is allowed if it is caused by either you or the person you care for:
having COVID-19; or
being ‘in isolation’.
It does not matter if you have had another break in caring recently, for example if you had a holiday or the person you care for was in hospital.
You are ‘in isolation’ if you are separating yourself from other people in order to avoid infection with COVID-19. A DWP memo on the new rules says that when decision makers are deciding whether you are ‘in isolation’ they:
‘should have regard to the latest UK Government advice to the public on when they should self-isolate on a case by case basis.’
You should be treated as ‘in isolation’ if you or someone you live with have COVID-19, or you are following guidance to isolate as you or someone that you live with have symptoms that might be COVID-19. In Scotland, you can find government advice on the NHS inform website.
If you are not sure whether you are in isolation or not, you can contact the carer’s allowance unit for advice.
The kind of care you must provide
The rules do not define what counts as caring for someone, except that the care you provide must be ‘regular and substantial’. In the past, the courts have interpreted this as normally meaning that only time spent in the physical presence of the person you care for can count, as well as the time you spend preparing for them to come home from a hospital or care home.
While the rules have not changed, the Scottish government has said that guidance will be produced to make clear that:
’recipients may continue to be paid where they provide care outwith the physical presence of the person being cared for. This ensures that, on a temporary basis, other forms of care such as remote provision of emotional support may entitle a person to continue receiving Carer’s Allowance, where care in the physical presence of the cared-for person is prevented by coronavirus.’
At the time of writing, it appears that you should also be able to make a new claim based on hours of care which are not undertaken in the presence of the person you care for. Information on the gov.scot website says that:
‘To allow for self-isolating on the part of the carer or cared for person, care does not need to take place in the physical presence of the cared for person as it usually does.’
At the time of writing no detailed guidance had been published, although there is similar information on gov.uk.
If you and the person that you care for do not have COVID-19 and are not in isolation, but something else is preventing you from going to see the person you care for, you should make a claim if the care you provide totals 35 hours a week or more (including time you spend caring remotely). Make sure that you explain this in detail when you claim. You can find out how to claim CA, or claim online, on gov.uk.
If you are working or studying less due to coronavirus
Reduced earnings
If you are not working or your earnings are less than £128 a week, you can claim CA. However, if you get furlough pay or help from the Self-employed Income Supplement Scheme then this counts as earnings for CA. So if you claim CA and later receive these payments you may be overpaid and asked to pay the money back.
If your earnings are too high to get CA, you may be entitled to the carer element of universal credit. You can read about the carer element below.
Studying and carer’s allowance
If you are in education, you cannot get CA if either:
your course is full-time; or
your hours of ‘supervised’ study total 21 hours a week or more, if your course is part-time.
Supervised study can include classes that you are doing from home, or required reading for your course. You are still treated as in education during a ‘temporary interruption’ to your course, so are unlikely to qualify for CA if you were in full-time education before the coronavirus outbreak, unless your course has now ended permanently.
Carer's allowance supplement
The carer’s allowance supplement is normally a lump sum of £230.10 (2020 rate), normally paid twice a year by Social Security Scotland. It is paid to people who are getting a payment of carer’s allowance on a ‘qualifying date’. The qualifying dates in 2020 are 13 April and 12 October, and payments are made about two months later. You do not need to do anything to get it, it should be paid automatically. If you do not get it and you think that you should have, you should contact Social Security Scotland.
The June payment of the carer’s allowance supplement was increased to £460.20. The increased amount should have been paid automatically.
Carer element of universal credit
You can get the carer element of universal credit (UC) if you satisfy all of the rules to get carer’s allowance (CA), or you would get it, except you earn too much. It is not a separate benefit, it is an additional amount of UC. If you do not get it you can ask for it to be added to your UC award. Only one person can get a carer element or CA for caring for a particular person.
If you can, you should claim CA as well as the UC carer element. This will allow you to get the carer’s allowance supplement from the Scottish government. You can read more about the carer’s allowance supplement on the CPAG website.
All of the changes to the CA rules above also apply to the UC carer element. Read more about the changes to the CA rules.
Young carer grant
If you are aged 16, 17 or 18 and live in Scotland you may be able to get a young carer grant. See below if you are 19 and could not claim in time.
To get a young carer grant, you must have spent 10 of the past 13 weeks caring for people who were getting a qualifying benefit throughout those 13 weeks. The qualifying benefits as the same as for carer’s allowance. See above for the qualifying benefits.
You can only get one young carer grant a year. It does not matter whether you also work or study full-time.
The kind of care you must have provided
You must have spent at least 208 hours caring over 10 of the 13 weeks before the date you claim a young carer grant. This rule has not changed during the coronavirus outbreak. The definition of what counts as care is not the same as the definition for carer’s allowance. The rules only say that the care that you provide ‘must involve activity that promotes the physical, mental or emotional well-being of the person being cared for’. There is no other definition in the law.
The Scottish government has listed some examples of what might count as caring in a page on the mygov.scot website. While all of the examples except picking up prescriptions suggest that you must spend time in the presence of the people you care for, this is not what the law says.
If you think that you might qualify due to time you spend either providing emotional support on the phone, or going shopping for someone, for example, you should claim anyway. Make sure that you explain exactly what help you have provided to the people you care for in the 13 weeks before you claim. Include details of caring tasks that were not done in the presence of the people you care for. You can find out how to claim or claim online at mygov.scot.
If your claim is refused, you can challenge this decision by either completing the form you are sent with your decision letter, or phoning 0800 182 2222.
Late claims due to coronavirus
Until 30 September 2020, if you met all of the conditions but could not claim a young carer grant before you turned 19 due to the coronavirus outbreak, you can still make a late claim. If it is accepted that your claim was late due to the coronavirus outbreak, you can still be awarded a grant. You must have met the rules above on a day when you were still 18 to qualify. For example, if you had only been caring for 6 weeks when you turned 19, you will not get a grant.
Make sure you submit your claim if this is why it is late, even if the website says that you will not qualify. If your claim is refused you should challenge the decision and explain why the outbreak meant that you could not claim in time.