Disability and carers assistance will help disabled people and carers to access life opportunities and will reduce barriers to their participation in social activities and relationships. As outlined in “A Connected Scotland: Our strategy for tackling social isolation and loneliness and building stronger social connections”, we know that interaction with others is key to reducing the harmful impacts of social isolation and loneliness. That is why the Scottish Government recognises that social security payments are an investment in people’s wellbeing and provide them with the financial support to make vital connections with others.
At present, unpaid carers for disabled people travel for free when they are in the company of the person whom they care for. Crucially, however, the companion element of the concessionary travel scheme does not assist with the solo travel costs of, for example, collecting prescriptions, doing shopping or visiting the cared-for person in hospital. According to Carers Scotland, one third of Scotland’s unpaid carers struggle to make ends meet, and many cut back on leisure and social activities to cope with the cost of caring. Will the Scottish Government detail the work that it has done in exploring the idea of concessionary travel for carers?
I will ask my colleague the Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity, who has responsibility for the concessionary travel scheme, to write to David Stewart directly on what is being looked at in that respect.
I recognise the contribution that carers make to our society. That is why the first act of our new agency, Social Security Scotland, was the implementation of the carers allowance supplement, which, last year, put an extra £442 into the pockets of carers, in recognition of the very important role that they have.