I am writing to ask for your help in reversing an unfair decision by Dumfries & Galloway Council earlier this year. The effect of this are only coming to light now and causing great hardship to disabled people under the age of 65 throughout the area.
On 29th February the Council approved a report which changed the income allowance that people under 65 could keep before paying charges. The Income Allowance for people under 65 went down from £177 to £132 per week while the Income Allowance for people over 65 went up from £177 to £195 per week.
At the same time the tax rate that people paid on the extra income they had about the Income Allowance went up from 55% to 65%.
The increase for every disabled person under 65 in Dumfries and Galloway getting social care is between £25 and £40 per week. (65% of the £45 extra plus or minus a little more) This payment will be on top of any existing payments meaning that many people will now be asked to pay as much as £70-80 per week.
The trigger for this change was a payment of £184,000 from the Scottish Government to reduce the amount that disabled people should pay in care charges. In Dumfries & Galloway this became a proposal to increase the amount people would have to pay.
Charging for social care is common. People who need care at home, day care or community alarms are asked to pay something towards this. The amount you pay depends on how much income you have.
While the overall calculation is quite complicated it start from a simple premise. You get an income allowance like the tax allowance from the HMRC which says how much you can keep before you start paying for services. The extra money you have above that is taxed as a rate that the council sets.
Our concern in not about making a contribution – it the sudden, sharp increase that has been announced. Dumfries and Galloway’s decision to reduce the income allowance and increase the tax level will hit disabled people under 65 in the area hard.
On Wednesday we met with local people from across the area and heard a range of stories how it might affect people.
- From Newton Stewart, a young man with support needs is seeing his charges goes up from £30 per week to £72 per week.
- From Stranraer, one person with learning disabilities is facing a 6 fold increase
- In Annan, a couple with learning disabilities face a weekly increase of £60 in their payments
- In Dumfries a young man with learning disabilities and physical disabilities has had his charges go up by 4 times
These are just the start as the increases are being rolled out linked to annual reviews which started in June and will carry on until the same time in 2017.
We know that Councillors are having to make hard decision about funding but we think there are a number of reasons why the decision should be reviewed.
- The report of the 29th February did not make clear what the effect of the changes would be on disabled people under 65. It only talked about percentage changes and not how much money people would be left with before paying charges. The only cash figure used was the nominal charge for assistive technology of £3.84 which gave the false impression that the effect was minor on the individuals involved.
- Working people only start paying Income Tax for the services that they use after they earn £220 per week. This single Income Allowance has been set by the UK government at what they think is a reasonable level which applies to everyone regardless of age. Dumfries and Galloway Council have set a much lower level of £132 per week for disabled people under 65 before they have to start paying charges.
- Disabled People have higher costs for many things. They pay more for many ordinary things in the community. It is hard for many to get out to the biggest and cheapest supermarket and so pay more for their food. People have to pay for their clubs and activities. Taxi travel can quickly eat up the limited amount people get in mobility benefits and eat into their other money. They need more money to just get by.
We would like to ask you to speak to your colleagues to see if a review of the decision could be made. Discussing it again through putting a motion up to the council would give councillors a chance to think clearly about this issue rather than as one item in amongst a lot of other budget papers.
If you require any more information or want to talk through these issues then please get in touch through the details below.