MORE than 100,000 carers could get almost £600 a year more in benefit payments in an independent Scotland under the SNP, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced.
An expert group set up by the Scottish Government to consider changes to the welfare system if there is a Yes vote in the referendum is to recommend increasing the carer’s allowance by more than £11 a week.
The group, which is due to publish its latest findings in the next few days, wants the allowance paid to carers - which is currently the lowest income replacement benefit - to be upped from £61.35 to £72.40 a week, bringing it in line with jobseeker’s allowance.
Such an increase would mean the 102,000 people in Scotland who are eligible for the benefit would be £575 a year better off.
Ms Sturgeon said: “I can confirm that we are committed to taking this recommendation forward if we form the first government of an independent Scotland.”
In its first report, published last November, the Expert Working Group on Welfare argued there would be a ‘’common interest’’ across the UK in maintaining the existing benefits system for a transitional period if Scotland voted for independence in September’s referendum.
Its second report looks at what steps an independent Scotland could take to set up its own welfare system, with proposals for immediately after independence, as well as medium and longer term reforms.
The SNP administration at Holyrood has already pledged it would abolish the controversial housing benefit changes which have been branded the ‘bedroom tax’ if it was in power after a Yes vote.
Now Ms Sturgeon said they would also take forward the expert group’s recommendation on the carer’s allowance.
She said: “The Expert Working Group on Welfare’s report will recommend an increase in the carer’s allowance to the same rate as jobseeker’s allowance, bringing to an end an unacceptable anomaly that sees carers - many of whom have had to give up work to care for a loved one after an accident or illness - awarded the lowest income replacement benefit.”
The Deputy First Minister added ensuring carers received an additional £575 a year would help with “easing the burden on households struggling to make ends meet as a result of a relative suffering from a long-term illness or injury that requires constant care”.
She stated: “This is just one example of how we could use the powers of independence to create a welfare system that suits the needs of the people of Scotland, and demonstrates why decisions about social security should be taken by those who live and work here. I’m grateful to the Expert Working Group for the huge amount of work they have done to consider the issues.
“The Group will publish its full report this week, and I look forward to considering its wide ranging package of recommendations to help us create a welfare system in Scotland that better meets our needs.”