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Today, Scottish Labour published a press release on the scandal of Care Tax. We agree with them that this must be ended. We really welcome the support of all political parties in the campaign against the Care Tax. It is important that we focus on the fact that care charging is an attack on human rights of disabled people and not lost in a political spat in the pre-election debate. Below is an excerpt from the Labour Party press release.
On the United Nations’ International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Scottish Labour attacked the scandal of Scotland’s care tax, calling on the Scottish Government to take immediate action to abolish it.
Faced with huge budget cuts due to the underfunded council tax freeze, councils have increasingly turned to introducing care charges for those under the age of 65 receiving non-residential care, rather than cutting services in an attempt to try and protect the most vulnerable. A coalition of disabled people and organisations, including Capability Scotland, Learning Disability Alliance Scotland, Inclusion Scotland, the Scottish Disability Equality Forum and Sense Scotland, have petitioned the parliament to end the unfair care tax, estimated to be around £50 million per year.
Scottish Labour’s Social Justice Spokesperson, Jackie Baillie MSP, said:
““With the SNP Government slashing resources to local authorities many are now forced to charge for essential care to shore up the huge budget cuts.
“With costs varying wildly from local authority to local authority, disabled people – who already face squeezed budgets – are now faced with spending what’s left of their income on essential care. After dragging their feet in the battle to mitigate against the Bedroom Tax, it seems the Scottish Government have a monster of their own creation wreaking havoc on the lives of disabled Scots– Scotland’s Care Tax.
A good meeting was had at the petitions committee on Tuesday 11th November about the Abolish Care Charges Petition. Due to timing issues we were not all able to speak at the start. Jeff managed to cover his whole introductory speech and also introduce Pauline’s points on human rights.
There was a healthy and supportive round of questioning from the committee members. There was a healthy disbelief at COSLA’s failure to deliver change after 12 years of trying. Jackie Baillie MSP also attended and made a very positive contribution.
The full verbatim minutes will be available from about 5pm on Tuesday 11th so I will not try to summarise the discussion any further.
The committee agreed to continue the petition and agreed the following actions.
– They will write to EHRC for an opinion on possible human rights and equality law breaches from care charging
- They will write to the Child Poverty Action Group and the Poverty Alliance for comment on care charging pushing people into poverty,
- They will ask the appropriate Minister to come to a future committee meeting and ask for their view on the lack of progress of consistency on care charges, how long they will continue to be happy with a lack of progress and what the Government plans to do about it.
- They will write to COSLA and ask for the convenor of the Working Group on charges to attend and to explain what outcomes they are seeking to achieve and what timescales they have set for this.
- They will write to NHS Scotland for their views on care charging in light of integration and what effect it has on the services they provide.
- They will write to Moray, Argyll & Bute and Falkirk seeking an explanation for their widely varying care charges.
Overall those who took part and those who watched thought this was a productive and helpful meeting that will lead to some interesting development.
The committee will hear further evidence on this petition at a future meeting - probably not until January 2015.
23 councils in Scotland are asking disabled people with incomes below the poverty line to pay care charges.
Scotland has a serious problem with poverty and people with learning disabilities are often worst hit. Yet councils penalise people with learning disabilities who are living below the poverty line by making them pay for their charges.
In July of this year the Scottish Government published figures which showed that 16 per cent of the population were living in relative poverty in 2012/13, an increase from 14 per cent the year before. 100 thousand more people had fallen into poverty in just one year bring the total to 820 thousand individuals in Scotland living in relative poverty.
23 councils in Scotland have an Income Disregard level that is less than the poverty line for single adults under the age of 65. The poverty line in Scotland for a single person after housing costs is £144 but these councils say that people with incomes as low as £123 should start paying care charges, driving them further into poverty.
The offending councils are
- Aberdeen City
- Argyll & Bute
- Dumfries & Galloway
- East Ayrshire
- East Lothian
- East Renfrewshire
- Glasgow City
- North Ayrshire
- Orkney Islands
- Scottish Borders
- Shetland Islands
- South Ayrshire
- South Lanarkshire
- West Dunbartonshire
- West Lothian
Scotland Against the Care Tax (SACT) has launched a national petition calling on the Scottish Government to abolish charging for social care, the ‘Care Tax,’ as frustration with the failure of COSLA to regulate care charges has led to voluntary sector representatives walking out of the partnership.
The petition calls on the Scottish Government to use powers it already has to abolish care charges throughout Scotland. It has been signed by 29 organisations representing disabled people, people with long-term conditions, older people and carers. Sign the petition here . Download a paper copy to sign and return here
Three years ago COSLA told the Scottish Government it would set up a working group to harmonise charges across Scotland in response to concerns over poor practice. A number disabled people’s representatives have worked with COSLA since 2011 to try and deliver this. Of the 5 third sector organisations represented on the COSLA Working Group 3 have resigned from it this week.
Figures show that over the last three years, care charges have risen on average by 12% with increases in some councils far more than that. Aberdeen City has more than doubled its charging income from disabled people in the last 2 years, while West Dunbartonshire Council has more than trebled their income from the Care Tax.
Nearly every local authority in Scotland charges disabled people for the care they receive. Councils are currently allowed to choose if and what to charge. Support for getting up and going to bed, eating and drinking, and seeing family and friends are all things that can be charged for.
There is no upper limit on what councils can charge for care. This means some disabled people are charged 100% of their own, already severely limited, income for the care they are entitled to.