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|08 Jul 2015|
The Learning Disability Alliance Scotland June newsletter has been published today. If you want to listen to a copy you can click on the audio version here.
The first article is on the large number of older and disabled people all over Scotland who are unable or unwilling to pay care charges for social care services. Read it here
The second article looks at the planned cuts in learning disability services planned by local councils in the current financial year. Read it here.
And remember you can have all the articles on our website read aloud by highlighting the text and then clicking on it
Care Charges – Scotland’s Hidden Rival to the Poll Tax
A patchwork of different 32 different ways of taxing disabled people who require personal and social care is generating anger and discontent across Scotland and levels of non-payment now rival that of the Poll Tax. Thousands of disabled people all over Scotland are refusing to pay a tax of up to 100% on their income while Scotland’s local and national politicians have failed to end what everyone agrees is an unacceptable situation.
Shona Robison, Cabinet Secretary for Health, states that “charges made by local authorities for social care, where necessary, need to be fair and affordable.” But figures from 29 Scottish local councils suggest that disabled people have given up waiting for the Scottish Government to sort the problem.
19% of disabled people, some 14,500, who pay care charges are now in substantial arrears in their Care Tax payments and councils have started debt management procedures against almost 5,600 people. In 2014, 25 disabled people were taken to court for non-payment of their Care Tax.
In the first year of the non-payment campaign of the Poll Tax only 12.8% of people didn’t pay. It was only in the second year of the Poll Tax that non-payment levels rose to 21%.
While there is a popular campaign to end care charging led by Scotland Against the Care Tax, no organisation has yet called for an official non payment campaign. The current levels of non payment are simply the actions of those who cannot afford to pay an unfair tax that leaves them unable to pay for the essential things in the lives of disabled people.
Research by the disability charity Scope estimates that on average, disabled people spend £550 a month on disability-related expenditure, including higher heating bills, buying specialised equipment, paying for taxis to get around or covering higher insurance premiums.
Paying for social care charges can make this even worse so it is important to have such Disability Related Expenditure properly recognised when it comes to any financial assessment
Legal Basis for Charging and Disability Related Expenditure
The Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968 provides the legal basis for charging for non-residential care. Under s87 of the Act charges must be both “reasonable and practicable” for an individual to pay.
Understanding the associated additional daily living costs of living with an illness or a disability is essential if local authorities are to ensure charging levels meet this test. Failure to take Disability Related Expenditure (DRE) into account as part of the financial assessment could result in charging levels which cause financial hardship and undermine the right of people living with an illness or disability to live independently.
COSLA’s National Strategy & Guidance on Charges Applying to Non-residential Social Care Services 2015/16 recognises the importance of taking DRE into account and states in paragraph 7.31 on page 31 that “to ensure the extra costs of being disabled are be taken into account by charging policies councils should be proactive in considering further disregard of income where additional expenditure is incurred by a service user as a result of living as a disabled person.”
What is Disability Related Expenditure
COSLA’s new proposals to solve accusations of unfairness in social care charging are claimed to help less than 500 people in Scotland.
Ian Hood, Coordinator of the Learning Disability Alliance Scotland said that “only a handful of wealthy pensioners who need help with shopping will be the beneficiaries of this scheme. Councils have increased care charges on disabled people by 21% in the last year alone and they are treating them as cash cows to make up for council cuts.”
COSLA is bringing in a new Standard Financial Assessment Template that is meant to help councils reduce the variation in charges for the same service from one area to the next.
Over 100,000 people in Scotland receive social care and those not entitled to Free Personal Care such as disabled people under 65 or those who require other types of help such as shopping are asked to pay.
Social Care charges have been the target of a vigorous campaign to resolve inconsistencies and unevenness in care charges across Scotland. Scotland Against the Care Tax collected thousands of signatures on a petition and has built a coalition of user led organisations and charities to oppose this.
However the new template, published this week in national guidance for councils, makes no changes in most of the charging rates applying in Scotland. Disabled people will still pay up to 100% of their income after allowances.
On Wednesday 3rd of June, The Forth Valley Stronger Together were shown around the Scottish Parliament by Bruce Crawford MSP. It was a great opportunity to see where the big decisions are made and to hear the latest news and political developments. Here's everyone in the very bright Debating Chamber just in front of the First Minister's desk. Thanks Bruce!