New Lib Dem plans for PIP, Universal Credit first payments and Carer's Allowance ahead of General Election

The Liberal Democrat Party manifesto pledges to “repair the broken benefits safety net” by reducing the five-week waiting time for a first Universal Credit payment to just five days and reform the Carer’s Allowance benefit. The Party also proposes scrapping the bedroom tax and replacing the current sanctions regime with an incentive-based scheme to help people into work.

Plans were also announced to end “the young parent penalty for under-25s by restoring the full rate of Universal Credit for all parents regardless of age”. However, the most comprehensive reforms centred around Carer’s Allowance.

The Lib Dems plan to increase Carer’s Allowance and expand eligibility for the benefit by raising the amount carers can earn and introducing an earnings taper to “end the unfair cliff-edge”, reducing the number of hours’ care per week required and extending it to carers in full-time education.

The manifesto also sets out plans to establish an Independent Living Taskforce to help people live independently in their own homes, with more choice and control over their lives.

Disability benefits would also be reshaped under a Lib Dem government by bringing Work Capability Assessments in-house and reforming Personal Independence Payment (PIP) assessments to make the process “more transparent” in order to “stop unnecessary reassessments” and end the use of informal assessments.

If that sounds vaguely familiar, it seems the Lib Dems may be adopting the SNP’s approach to disability benefits and taking a more ‘people-centric’ approach.

The Conservative Party manifesto launches today, June 11, while Labour is expected to publish its manifesto on Thursday, June 13.

The Scottish Government’s latest disability benefit to launch is Carer Support Payment, which will gradually replace Carer’s Allowance north of the border by next year.

It is currently only open to new claimants living in the pilot areas of Dundee City, Na h-Eileanan Siar (the Western isles) and Perth and Kinross, however, it is due to rollout in North and South Lanarkshire and Angus on Monday, June 24.

The benefit is worth £81.90 each week for people providing 35 hours of care to a family member, friend or neighbour - some £327.60 every four-week pay period. Claimants can also choose to receive the payments weekly.

The new benefit is administered and delivered by Social Security Scotland and has the same weekly earnings limit as Carer’s Allowance - £151.

Carer Support Payment is only available to new claimants - people already receiving Carer’s Allowance from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will not be affected by the rollout and will have their current award transferred over to Social Security Scotland in stages.

It’s important to be aware the DWP will continue to pay Carer’s Allowance until the move to Carer Support Payment is completed.

There will be no gap in payments during the transfer between benefit platforms and the amount someone receives will stay the same.

Eligible carers who live in areas where Carer Support Payment is not yet available are being urged to still apply for Carer's Allowance from the DWP to make sure they don’t miss out on support.

Carer Support Payment rollout timetable

  • Available to claim now - Perth & Kinross, Dundee City and Na h-Eileanan Siar (Western Isles)

  • June 24 - North and South Lanarkshire, Angus

  • August 19 - Fife, Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Moray, and North, East and South Ayrshire

  • November 4 - Available across Scotland

Backdated payments

The new regulations also now include special backdating rules. This means carers who are not getting Carer’s Allowance but are eligible for Carer Support Payment can have their payments backdated to the date Carer Support Payment first became available. This stops carers missing out on money they are entitled to because they live in an area included in the later phases of the rollout.

The main group to benefit will be carers aged 16-19 in full-time “advanced” education (such as university), and carers aged over 20 in full-time education at any level.

To get their fully backdated payments, carers must apply within 13 weeks of the benefit becoming available in their area.

Transfers from DWP to Social Security Scotland began in February this year, with all awards expected to be moved by Spring 2025.

Eligibility for Carer Support Payment

Carer Support Payment is support a carer can be paid if they provide care for someone in receipt of a qualifying disability benefit, and meet certain eligibility criteria.

The carer must:

  • be 16 or over

  • usually live in Scotland

  • provide care for 35 hours or more a week, this includes if they provide care all day every day

  • not be studying certain courses if they are aged 16 to 19

  • not earn more than £151 a week after tax, National Insurance and expenses

The cared-for person must receive one of certain disability benefits:

  • Adult Disability Payment - daily living component at the standard or enhanced rate

  • Child Disability Payment - middle or highest care rate

  • Attendance Allowance

  • Personal Independence Payment - daily living component

  • Disability Living Allowance - middle or highest care rate

  • Constant Attendant Allowance at or above normal maximum rate with Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit

  • Constant Attendance Allowance at or above the basic (full day) rate with a War Disablement Pension

  • Armed Forces Independence Payment

If the carer is receiving any of the following benefits, it could reduce the amount they get from Carer Support Payment:

  • State Pension

  • Maternity Allowance

  • Contribution-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (New Style Jobseeker’s Allowance)

  • Contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance (New Style’ Employment and Support Allowance)

  • Incapacity Benefit

  • Severe Disablement Allowance

  • Widowed Mother’s Allowance or Widowed Parent’s Allowance

  • Training Allowance

  • War Widow’s or Widower’s Pension (Additional allowance for spouse element)

  • Unemployability Supplement that is paid with Industrial Injuries Disablement benefit or War Pension

  • Widow’s Pension or Bereavement Allowance

  • Industrial Death Benefit

Those benefits are known as ‘overlapping benefits’. Benefits ‘overlap’ where they are paid for the same purpose.

Carer Support Payment and the benefits above are all ‘income replacement’ benefits. This means a carer cannot get one of the above benefits and the full amount of Carer Support Payment at the same time.

If a carer’s overlapping benefit is less than Carer Support Payment, their payment will be the difference between Carer Support Payment and the overlapping benefit - often referred to as a ‘top-up’.

If their overlapping benefit is the same as or more than Carer Support Payment, they do not get any payment of Carer Support Payment.

This is known as having ‘underlying entitlement’. Having ‘underlying entitlement’ can help carers get either:

  • more money on top of their other benefits

  • access to benefits they could not get before

Full details about Carer Support Payment can be found on the website here.

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