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Resource Type Policy & Legislation


Carers (Scotland) Act 2016

The Carers (Scotland) Act 2016 came into force on 1 April 2018. It puts in place a system of carers’ rights designed to listen to carers; improve consistency of support; and prevent problems – helping sustain caring relationships and protect carers’ health and wellbeing.

Under the Act, a carer is someone who “provides or intends to provide care”. This definition excludes caring by virtue of paid employment or through a formalised volunteering role.

A young carer is a carer who is under the age of 18 or 18 and still at school.

The term ‘care’ in the definition of carer is not defined in the Act and so has its ordinary meaning. It therefore means the provision of what is necessary to the cared-for person in order to support their physical and mental health and wellbeing.

This can encompass:
a) medical or nursing care, such as helping someone to take medication or applying dressings;
b) personal care, such as helping to wash, dress or eat;
c) practical support, such as taking a person shopping or to medical appointments, cleaning or accompanying them to social events; and
d) emotional support.

Provisions in the Act include:

  • the right for all adult and young carers to a plan which focuses on what matters to them. For adult carers, this is called an adult carer support plan and for young carers, a young carer statement. Authorities have a duty to offer this plan or statement to every identified carer and carers also have a right to request one if they have not been offered.
  • a duty on local authorities to provide support to carers if any of their identified needs meet the local eligibility criteria;
  • a duty on local authorities to involve carers in the planning of local carer services they provide;
  • a duty on local authorities and health boards to jointly publish a local carer strategy;
  • a duty on local authorities to establish and maintain advice and information services for carers; and
  • a right for carers to be involved in the hospital discharge process of the person they care for.

The Carers’ charter was published to help make carers aware of their rights under the Act.

The Scottish Government established the Carers (Scotland) Act Implementation Steering Group (ISG) with representation from the main delivery partners including local authorities, health boards, integration joint boards, third and independent sectors, carer organisations, carers and other stakeholders including the Care Inspectorate. The group agreed a national Carers Act Implementation Plan for 2018-20 which identifies the strategic priorities that must be addressed in order to ensure the Act embeds on the ground.

The Scottish Government has co-produced statutory guidance on the Act with relevant stakeholders, including carers themselves, which will be kept under review in future. The guidance is for local authorities, health boards and integration authorities and may also be of interest to other organisations working alongside statutory bodies to deliver carer support.

The Coalition of Carers in Scotland launched a set of co-designed leaflets explaining new rights for unpaid carers under the Carers (Scotland) Act 2016. The Coalition worked with a variety of carers, carer organisations and health and social care staff to co-design the seven resources.

Young Scot and Carers Trust Scotland have produced some helpful resources for young carers to understand their rights under the Act.

In 2019 the Scottish Government published its draft Carers Strategic Policy Statement. The document sets out the Government's overall ambitions for unpaid carers and for carer support. It maps the main policies across the Scottish Government which will be particularly relevant to carers and sets out the overall outcomes these policies contribute towards, as well as the principles underpinning our work. The document aims to inform strategic planning and policy development for local and national organisations working with carers. It will also inform frontline workforce training, including for teachers, social workers, health professionals and carer support workers. 

Key documents:

Short Breaks for carers

In additional to any statutory short breaks provided to carers under the Carers (Scotland) Act 2016, the Scottish Government funds the voluntary-run Short Breaks Fund which is administered by Shared Care Scotland and the Family Fund.

Four programmes are in place, providing grants to third sector organisations and direct to families:

  • Creative Breaks offers grants to third sector organisations to develop new and existing short breaks provision with underlying principles of promoting greater choice, flexibility and personalisation of support. This programme also supports channeling of funding to carers, via local support organisations, to enable carers and people with support needs to arrange the break of their choosing.
  • Better Breaks provides grants to third sector organisations to develop additional, responsive and creative short break opportunities for disabled children, young people and their families.
  • Time to Live is a funding programme offering 12-month grants to carers organisations (usually carer centres) to develop and deliver micro grants schemes for carers to meet their needs.
  • The Take a Break initiative gives grants directly to families of disabled children and young people for personalised leisure activities or holiday breaks.

Shared Care Scotland host an online short breaks directory so you can find appropriate breaks near you.

In addition to this, Respitality projects currently run in some local areas across Scotland. Hospitality providers are encouraged to become Respitality Partners by donating leisure opportunities for carers.

Self-directed Support

Self-directed support (SDS) is designed to ensure people are given a range of options for how their social care is delivered, empowering people to decide how much ongoing control and responsibility they want over their own support arrangements, beyond just direct payments.  

The Social Care (Self-directed Support) (Scotland) Act 2013 requires local authorities in Scotland to offer people four choices on how they can get their social care. Other provisions in the Act include a power to authorities to support unpaid carers and duties on authorities to give information to help them make an informed choice.

The Scottish Government has published Carer’s Assessments (Scotland) Directions 2014, to accompany the Act. The document provides guidelines for local authorities to establish the circumstances where a carer is deemed to be providing ‘substantial’ support to an individual, assessing the effects on a carer’s mental health, and taking the age of a carer into account.

In June 2019, the Scottish Government launched a self-directed support Implementation Plan for 2019 - 2021. The plan sets out the actions that public and voluntary organisations will take to support authorities to build on their progress towards more flexible and responsive social care support, co-produced with communities and supported people.

Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014

The Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 includes provisions to establish a 'kinship care order' to enhance support provided to kinship carers who obtain an order under the Children (Scotland) Act 1995. Eligible kinship carers will get help and advice if they apply for, or are considering applying for, a kinship care order, and will get enhanced support, when they get, or are subject to a kinship care order. 

Carer Positive Employers Accreditation Scheme

Carer Positive is an accreditation scheme that encourages and recognises employers who put in place flexible and supportive working practices for people who juggle work with unpaid care.  It promotes the benefits for businesses, individual carers, society and the wider economy of supporting unpaid carers to remain in work alongside caring. The scheme is funded by the Scottish Government and delivered by Carers Scotland.

Carer Positive offers free accreditation to qualifying employers of all sizes across the public, private and third sectors.  The requirements for accreditation are designed to be flexible and proportionate to the size and nature of the organisation involved. The scheme offers three levels of accreditation, Engaged, Established and Exemplary. These reflect the different stages an employer may be on their journey to supporting carers in their workforce.

If your organisation would like to sign up to be Carer Positive, you can visit the website for an application form or contact the coordinator, Sue McLintock at: or on 0141 445 3070.

Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018

The Social Security (Scotland) Act was introduced to facilitate the devolution of social security powers. An overall commitment to improving the experience of carers, so support and advice is more accessible under the new Scottish social security system, was made by Ministers. The work of the Carer Benefit Advisory Group informed the Government's approach in this area.

The Scottish Government’s first change when the Act was passed was to introduce Carer's Allowance Supplement (CAS) in September 2018. This brought the amount paid in line with Job Seekers Allowance through two additional payments a year. CAS has helped over 77,000 Scottish carers, increasing Carer's Allowance by 13%, with an investment of over £33 million in 2018/19, and 37 million in 2019/20. The Scottish Government will also start delivery of additional financial support to carers of more than one disabled child in spring 2021.

The Scottish Government and Young Scot launched an awareness raising campaign to ensure carers aged between 16 and 24 are claiming Carer’s Allowance.The Scottish Government also published a Question and Answer factsheet to help carer organisations understand the implementation and timescales of the Carer’s Allowance. 

Key documents:

In September 2017 the First Minister announced plans for a new Young Carer Grant to be awarded to carers aged between 16 and 18 who do at least 16 hours of caring per week, but do not qualify for Carer’s Allowance. The Young Carer Grant was introduced in autumn 2019 and will help around 1,700 young carers each year. Recipients of the Young Care Grant will also be provided with free bus travel from 2020/21, subject to successful piloting following carers’ concerns about meeting travel costs. The Grant, worth £300 a year, is part of a new package of support for young carers, which includes more entitlements and awards for 11-19 year old young carers through the Young Scot National Entitlement Card. 


Useful Links

Further reading

Self-Directed Support Library

A selection of resources that explain what SDS is, people’s stories, assessment and support planning tools as well as resources to influence commissioning and procurement practice to make SDS truly mainstream across Scotland

Animal magic

A resource celebrating the amazing difference being around and caring for animals makes for many children and adults using a range of care services

National recruitment guidance

Guidance in relation to the recruitment of staff working in social care, early education and childcare and social work settings

Latest Adult and Health Bulletin

A weekly bulletin produced by our policy team providing an update on the key developments in adult social care and health

Adult and Health Bulletin: 23 - 30 October 2020

Adult and Health Bulletin: 23 - 30 October 2020

Adult and Health Bulletin: 23 - 30 October 2020

Latest Children and Young People Bulletin

A weekly bulletin produced by our policy team providing an update on the key developments concerning children and young people

Children and Young People Bulletin: 23 - 30 October 2020

Children and Young People Bulletin: 23 - 30 October 2020

Children and Young People Bulletin: 23 - 30 October 2020