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‘Sickening’: Scotland’s carers short-changed by £25m last year, figures show

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Millions of pounds worth of Scottish Government funding designated for carers went unspent by local authorities last year, figures show.

Data, shared exclusively with STV News, show £25m has been either unaccounted for or allocated to other projects.

The “sickening” figures were obtained by the Coalition of Carers in Scotland (COCIS) through a Freedom of Information request to all of Scotland’s 32 councils.

The campaign group has demanded a more transparent reporting process.

Claire Cairns, from COCIS, told STV News: “More of that Carers Act money needs to go directly to local services including local carers centres.

“We would like to see it ringfenced and there needs to be more accountability from the Scottish Government and from local authorities.

STV News

“It needs to be tracked and monitored to make sure it all goes to supporting carers directly.”

That could include providing more opportunities for respite care and short breaks for carers.

“It’s disappointing that the demand for carers support far outstrips the resources that are available and carers struggle to get a break from caring.

“Only 2 to 3% of carers are able to get a break and that money could have gone to local carers centres and increasing short breaks for carers which could have made a real difference to their lives.”

Mum of deaf and autistic son brands unspent funding ‘sickening’

Asifa ElahiSTV News

Asifa Elahi, 45, is a carer for her nine-year-old son Ayyub who is deaf and autistic.

The mum-of-three often struggles with her budget and says the extra funding could make a huge difference to her family’s life.

“It’s sickening to know there’s that much money out there, but its not available to us or other carers”, she told STV News.

“That’s ridiculous, there should be some accountability for where that money is going.

“I had to wait a whole year to get the budget and it’s a set budget, you’re not allowed to use it for anything else which is really unfair.

Asifa Elahi and Ayyub STV News

“We’re under a lot of pressure mentally, physically. It has a very big impact on mental health, and I wouldn’t be alone, saying plenty of carers whose mental health has been impacted really badly, and I’m not shy to say mines is.

“As a carer, you need to be mentally strong to provide for your own child and if you’re not getting the right support how are you going to look after yourself?”

Ms Elahi argues changes should be made to the eligibility criteria for Carers Allowance.

The Scottish Government says almost £280m has been paid to over 150,000 carers since Carer’s Allowance Supplement was introduced in Scotland in September 2018.

Eligible carers get payments twice a year, normally in June and December. In the 2023-2024 financial year each payment was £270.50.

The Carers 2022-23 Carers Census shows the number of carers has increased by 5% in the last year to 44,310 individual carers. But Carers Scotland warn the real number, including unpaid carers could be more than 800,000.

COSLA, the body that represents Scotland’s local authorities, said councils have shown a commitment to supporting carers flexibly and responsively in their role.

“The full £88.4m to support the Carers Act is allocated to all Integration Authorities across Scotland to enable local areas to meet their wide-ranging statutory duties under the Carers Act, including the right to a social work assessment for all unpaid carers, ensuring those who are assessed as eligible are able to access support and a break from caring, and that carers are involved in both the individual and strategic decisions which impact them,” a spokesperson said.

“The reality of the situation is that carer support relies on a much wider health and social care infrastructure, and with the significant cuts experienced by local government and the public sector it is clear these impacts are now being felt across all parts of the system.”

COSLA added that Integration Authorities publish their financial and strategic plans annually in which they set out how they will support carers utilising Carers Act funding in parallel with the broader priorities of their respective Health and Social Care Partnerships.

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