The Scottish Government is set to pay out an extra £19.2 million to unpaid carers as a thank-you for the work they are doing during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The move should see around 83,000 Scots who are in receipt of Carer’s Allowance get a special one-off payment of £230.10 in June.
It was announced after more than 30 organisations in Scotland penned an open letter calling on ministers at both Holyrood and Westminster to do more to reduce the “intolerable pressure” being endured by carers.
Oxfam Scotland, one of those groups, said the additional money is a “welcome step”.
But the charity’s head, Jamie Livingstone, said: “Many carers, particularly women who deliver most care, were already trapped in poverty before coronavirus and they are telling us that they’re facing rising bills for things like food and other essentials.
“Carers have been undervalued for too long, and while this extra payment is a welcome step, we must properly value the work of all carers now, and for good.”
Social Security Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said the cash boost will be included in forthcoming Scottish Government legislation aimed at tackling the virus.
She said: “We introduced the Carer’s Allowance Supplement to recognise the important contribution unpaid carers play in our society. They provide vital support to family, friends and neighbours.
“Our collective efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus will see many of these carers experiencing additional pressures, particularly financial, right now.
“The payment will benefit carers who are on low incomes and already have some of the most intense caring roles, providing at least 35 hours unpaid care weekly to a disabled child or adult in receipt of higher level disability benefits.
“This additional payment would be an acknowledgement to carers that we know that they are doing even more right now, and we thank you.”
As well as Oxfam Scotland, the open letter to ministers was also signed by groups including Carers Scotland, the Scottish Women’s Budget Group, One Parent Families Scotland, the Scottish Trades Union Congress, the Poverty Alliance, the Child Poverty Action Group Scotland, the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations and Unison.
Carers Scotland said its research shows eight out of 10 unpaid carers are having to shell out more to put food on the table and meet their bills during the coronavirus pandemic.
A survey issued alongside the letter found two-thirds of Scots (66%) believe care workers are paid too little, with 62% saying care work is not valued highly enough by the Scottish Government.
The letter, signed by more than 100 organisations across the UK and sent to MPs and MSPs, demands an increase in payments made under the Carer’s Allowance and child benefit system.
It also wants the five-week wait for payments under Universal Credit to be lifted, and the two-child limit on some benefits to be scrapped.
The groups argue injecting cash into social care would allow employers in the sector to pay all staff the real living wage.
They wrote: “Right now the focus is rightly on saving lives, but we urge you to use your influence to ensure governments across the UK use every tool they have to protect people from poverty.
“While governments have tried to cushion the immediate impact of this crisis, more needs to be done to alleviate the intolerable pressure carers face.”