Policy and legislation in Scotland

The Scottish Parliament has responsibility for health, the NHS and social care, education, some social security (including disability and carer benefits) and so most of the legislation which affects unpaid carers in Scotland is discussed in the Scottish Parliament.

National Carers Strategy 

In December 2022, the Scottish Government published it's new National Carers Strategy. The strategy seeks to address the challenges of the cost-of-living crisis and COVID-19 recovery and aims to support long-term change that will allow unpaid carers to provide care in a way that balances all other aspects of their lives.

The strategy also aims to ensure that unpaid carers' importance to society is recognised and that their voices are represented and heard in national policy making.

Read the Scottish Government's National Carers Strategy 

Read the Scottish Government's National Carers Strategy Executive Summary

Read the Scottish Government's National Carers Strategy Easy Read Version

The Carers (Scotland) Act 2016

The primary law that affects unpaid carers in Scotland is called the Carers (Scotland) Act. It has been implemented since April 2018 and replaces previous legislation that supports unpaid carers. The Act makes it simpler for unpaid carers to be identified as needing support with their caring role, and makes getting this support easier too.

Carers’ assessments have been replaced in Scotland by Adult Carer Support Plans (for adults) and Young Carer Statements (for young carers under 18). Both of these focus more on how the caring role is affecting the person, rather than the number of hours spent caring.

The Act specifies that there must be certain things included in support planning for unpaid carers, such as emergency and future planning, the unpaid carer’s personal outcomes, how much care the unpaid carer is willing and able to provide, and whether any support could include a break from caring.

Each local authority must also maintain or establish an information and advice service for unpaid carers. The services must provide information and advice about certain topics, including unpaid carers’ rights, income maximisation, advocacy, bereavement support, and emergency and future care planning.

The key duty in the Act is that unpaid carers who meet eligibility criteria must be provided with support to meet their identified needs. When unpaid carers do not meet eligibility criteria for support, local authorities must set out how they will meet those needs.

Each local authority must set their own local eligibility criteria, and must consult and involve unpaid carers and representative organisations when developing the criteria.

The Act has a lot of focus on unpaid carer involvement – both in local strategy development and development of services, and in assessment and services provided to the cared for person. There is also a duty on health boards to involve unpaid carers in hospital discharge of the person they look after.

Carers (Scotland) Act 2016 – Jargon Buster for Young Carers

We’ve worked with the Scottish Government and with young carer services to develop a Carers (Scotland) Act 2016 – Jargon Buster for Young Carers. This resource explains some of the more complicated or unusual words and phrases in the Carers (Scotland) Act guidance to ensure that young carers are fully aware of what the Act means for them and their families. 

Download the Carers (Scotland) Act 2016 – Jargon Buster for Young Carers

Further information on policy and legislation for carers in Scotland

Find out more about Policy and legislation in Scotland

Date revised: 054/09/2022