IT won't surprise you that in politics I meet hundreds, if not thousands of people a year - it's one of the best parts of the job.

Of those thousands there are a few who have touched me and changed my perspective on life. One such person was Magteld Darroch-Jansen.

A few months after being elected I wanted to know about the challenges carers go through on a day-to-day basis. Magteld, a mother of two young autistic children, was kind enough to let me spend a day shadowing her. What was an ordinary day for Magteld and her family was easily one of the most exhausting days I have ever had.

Sadly, Magteld passed away recently after her battle with secondary breast cancer. However, right up until her last days she was a champion for carers, mothers and for all those who needed a voice - and throughout it all she never lost her smile.

Although she may no longer be with us her ideals for a better society for all is something we can all strive towards.

This week is Carers Week, a week where the amazing and essential work that carers do is brought to light, and we have a chance to thank them for everything that they do, which so often goes unnoticed.

It also aims to improve the lives of carers and the people they care for.

Whatever gesture or kind words we can say about Scotland's carers would never be enough for the invaluable work they do year after year without looking for any favour or recompense. The least we can do is remove the barriers to make their life easier.

This year's Carers Week includes a new initiative, the Carers Week Quest, which aims to reach out to the thousands of carers in the UK who are missing out on services and support.

Many carers don't consider themselves to be carers - they are just a relative or friend helping someone they care about. This can leave people isolated and unaware of the help and support that is available to them.

The Carers Week Quest will focus on reaching out to the thousands of carers who are missing out on advice, information and support that can make a big difference to their lives, and helping them access these services.

THE Scottish Government truly appreciates and values the huge contribution carers make to society.

We are also committed to helping carers by easing the burden on households struggling to make ends meet as a result of a relative suffering from a long-term illness or injury that requires constant care.

This is demonstrated by the recommen-dation by the Expert Working Group on Welfare to increase Carer's Allowance in an independent Scot- land to £72.40 a week, the same rate as Job- seekers Allowance for those aged 25 or over.

This would mean the 102,000 people who are eligible to claim Carer's Allowance would receive an extra £575 a year, and would end the current system which sees carers get the lowest income replacement benefit.

Deputy First Minister and Glasgow MSP Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed that the SNP are committed to taking this recommen-dation forward if we form the first Government of an independent Scotland.

This is just one way that we could use the powers of indepen-dence to create a welfare system that suits the needs of the people of Scotland.