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Over the first three years of the Council Tax freeze, councils across Scotland have made up the shortfall in their incomes by rapidly increasing the amount that they receive in Care Tax from vulnerable adults. The Care Tax is the proper name for client contributions or charging for non residential community care services.
The Chart shows a consistent rise of 12% in just two financial years, much faster than inflation and we expect further increases when the next round of figures is made available in Feb 2014.
In the three years to 2012 income from charges went up by 29.5% for people using day services, 42% for those who needed equipment and physical aids and a massive 84% for people who got a Direct Payment.
With many people paying charges for their care for the first time, it comes as a surprise to find out how high the tax rate is compared to the other taxes in Britain today. How much of their income they will pay depends on the Care Tax rate for that local authority. These tax rates are set annually by local authorities and there is considerable local variation in rates used. Many councils can charge up to 100%. 25 charge a rate higher than the income tax level for the richest people in the country. Only one charges less than the Standard rate of Income Tax.
A small number of councils apply higher rates to those over 60 than they do to those under 60. These include Glasgow (100%), North Ayrshire (50%) and Edinburgh (70%).
100% on the spare income after allowances of people getting care is a higher tax rate than anyone else in the country has to pay. For comparison we have included in the table the major applicable tax rates for the UK.
The current highest tax rate in the UK is for people who are high earners and only applies to income above the level of £41,400. Care Tax payers in 25 local authorities pay higher rates.
Nearly two years ago the Scottish Government and COSLA responded to political pressure on Unfair Care Charges by setting up a working group to look at reforming the current mess. But nothing seems to have changed for people with disabilities except that more and more are being charged for their services.
The working group was a response to a study by Capability Scotland which showed that few councils took account of Disability Related Expenditure, the extra costs of being disabled when they worked out charges.
At a time when many are facing challenges such as loss of Housing Benefits due to the Bedroom Tax, the loss of benefits by being put in the wrong support group as part of the ESA work Capability Test and cuts in support, its ridiculous that people have to pay for their services in a way that no one understands. Some people pay £50 a week, others a lot more and yet others nothing at all.
LDAS asked councils how much they charged for an hour of support. We wanted to see how much these rates had come into line. Instead they had got worse! Click on the map above to see details of your local area. You can see some councils charge £23 an hour in care charges while others charge only £8. In any area in Scotland you can buy care from the private sector for £10-£12, from the voluntary sector for about £15 - so why the variation - who knows - certainly not COSLA or the Scottish Government.
This must end! The Learning Disability Alliance Scotland is working with other organisations to establish a joint campaign against this unfair tax.
The proposed Statutory Guidance on Self Directed Support raises the question of charging for social care services after its implementation.
"Historically, charges have tended to be based on established “service” charges, with some services exempted from charging. However, where a supported person’s package is predicated on flexible use of an identified budget rather than a menu of services, the authority is no longer able to charge on the basis of service types. Authorities should consider new approaches to charging – approaches which enable them to charge on the basis of a proportion of the supported person’s budget as opposed to one form of service or another."
The Learning Disability Alliance Scotland has commented that this is out of line "with other guidance on charging issued by the Scottish Government which recognises that local authorities make the decision about whether or not to charge for social care. Fife has recently dropped its charges for Home Care. Others have never charged for some services. The NHS does not charge for its reablement or intermediate care services.
The guidance is a bit too “gung ho” in suggesting that local authorities look at new ways of charging for self directed support. It might be more appropriate to suggest that local authorities follow the North Lanarkshire example and stop charging when people take up self directed support. This provides a positive incentive for people to adopt SDS.
In June 2011 in the Scottish Parliament, the Finance Secretary, John Swinney told MSPs \"I have no proposals to bring forward any new taxes in Scotland.”
But there is one tax that keeps going up that Mr Swinney doesn’t seem to know about and it is hitting more and more disabled people. This is the charge that councils make when they provide social care support to people in their own homes.
New figures discovered by the Learning Disability Alliance Scotland show that councils have ramped up the amount of Care Tax that they apply as many more people now find themselves charged for services previously delivered for nothing.
· Jackie from the Borders now pays £300 a month for her care when she previously paid nothing
· Asif from Glasgow now pays £180 a month when he used to only pay £10.00
· John from Tarbert now pays £250 a month for support which he just to get for free.