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In January, the Minister for Health, Wellbeing and Sport announced a £6 million cash injection to raise the amount that older and disabled people were able to keep before paying care charges to the same level as that in England. For about 15 years, disabled people under 65 in other parts of the UK have
been significantly better off than those in Scotland, on average getting to keep £132 per week as well as income needed to meet any other Disability Related Expenditure.
However it would seem that the Scottish Government cannot just tell local councils what to do. In a number of areas, councils have decided to ignore this. Angus, for example, decided to increase the threshold for over 60s but to freeze it for those under 60 (Report 66/16 5(c)).
BUT even worse some areas have decided to use this as an excuse to increase their incomes. Instead of levelling up of care charges, two areas Highland HSCP (3/3/16 (7.4)) and Dumfries & Galloway Council (29/2/16 Template 11) have cut the income that they allowed people to keep by £22 - 25 per week. In both areas all new social care clients will start paying the new rate from April 1st while in Dumfries & Galloway all existing clients will start to paying after their next assessment. Highland may raise an extra £1 million over the next year, D & G about £500,000.
Other councils across Scotland are joining in with measures designed to get more money from disabled people to pay for their social care.
Last week, Shona Robison, the Health Secretary made an announcement of £6 million for Scottish councils as long as it was used to reduce social care charges. We understand that this money has been proposed as an anti poverty measure which will see the Income Thresholds raised in a number of councils. This is the level of basic income that people have to have before they start paying charges. The Health Secretary has suggested that 900 people will stop paying all care charges and 13,000 will pay less. A quick sum tells us that each person will be about £8.30 a week better off.
The £6 million is part of the additional £250 million that is being given to health boards to improve social care. Will it make a lot of difference? £6 million is roughly 15% of the total that councils raise in care charges so many people will still have to pay and we have already seen proposals in this year's council budgets to raise charges even more. We do agree this is a helpful first step but it would be helpful to know where it was a first step to.
However this does indicate the political pressure that has been building up on this issue thanks to the very strong Dundee and Angus based campaign for Frank's Law and the work of Scotland Against the Care Tax. This pressure is not going away so lets see what else develops when we see the parties' election manifestos in April. Read the Courier article here.
However we believe the Courier article is wrong to say that those that that pay for community alarms or meals with pay less. These are non means tested items that everyone who gets them has to pay for and are not affected by raising the charges threshold.
This chart uses Scottish Government statistics to show one consequence of government policy on social care charges. Rising Social Care Charges are linked to falling numbers of people getting the vital support that we need. There has been much talk about "demographic time bombs" and the "growing demands" of disabled people. Yet this charts show that in just a few years the number of people getting help has fallen by thousands. As one senior member of a local authority social work department put it to us - "care charges are part of demand management." However we have yet to hear anyone proclaim this policy a success. Perhaps this is something that is being kept quiet.
For over 5 years, LDAS has raised concerns about whether the COSLA figures for the amount of income collected in non-residential social care charges.
For example, one local authority, Glasgow, claims to raise over £16 million annually. Yet the next nearest is South Lanarkshire with only a slightly smaller population but raising just £2 million. Our concerns that the Glasgow figure could not possibly be correct were raised with senior local authority finance people at both local and national level but nothing was done.
New information received by the Learning Disability Alliance Scotland in the last few weeks shows that Glasgow’s self-directed support care management information software, CareFirst 6, wraps up individual contributions along with their Independent Living Fund monies and declares it as a single contribution from each client.
This makes sense for the council when it comes to working out their own budgets but gives the completely wrong figure for social care charges.