We think that social care service like health services should be provided free of charge to the most vulnerable. Care charges are really a care tax.
After nearly 5 years of campaigning against a rise in home care charges to £11 an hour, people with disabilities in Fife are celebrating a decision by the council to scrap home care charges.
The election last May brought in a new minority Labour administration who agreed to drop the home care charges in their first full budget. That budget was agreed on the 14th of February.
There is a cost to the council of £300,000 to scrap the charges but this is offset by an estimated £50,000 to collect this amount.
This success can help other people campaigning against these charges all over the country. But there are lessons for us all. A dedicated group of campaigners who are willing to work broadly and inclusively and who build links with politicians can achieve a success.
One note of caution is that the Fife budget papers do specifically talk about "home care charges" and not all non-residential social care charges. As a result it is possible that come April, Fife Council will still make charges for community alarms, meals on wheels and other services.
A National working group has been set up by COSLA to try and bring some changes to this patchwork of care charges. However it will not bring any quick fixes. This year they hope to do no more than harmonise income disregards.
We have produced a “Universal Calculator” to show how much your charges might vary from one local authority to another. You enter your income and expenditure, then fill in your housing support and how much you will pay in Inverness, Aberdeen or Glasgow is displayed.
It is an excel spreadsheet in which you can enter the appropriate income and expenditure you have and then add the hours of support and number of times a week you go to a day centre. Care charges will be calculated automatically.
This Universal Calculator is based on published information from local authorities all over the country. Some of the care services is different areas are not comparable in different areas and charges may vary as a result.
This is not the same as a financial assessent by a local authority and you should always seek the advice of local authority staff over what you will pay according to your circumstances. In some areas transitional protection is in place and you may pay less than is shown by the calculator. In other cases, local authorities will help you claim benefits that you do not already get and this may increase your income. In such cases you might be better off even though you are paying care charges.
A new committee of the Great and the Good are going to be looking at the various consultation responses sent to COSLA about the current unfair care charging system. Cllr Douglas Yates has told us "they are exploring a number of possibilities and I am hoping that a report will be able to be prepared for late October."
We think they would do well to look at the new care charging regulations in Wales which are far more comprehensive than first press reports would have us believe. A new statutory basis has been established which:
- The regulations introduce a Wales wide maximum charge of £50 per week for all of the services an individual receives.
- The only exception to this would be those services which an individual receives which substitute for ordinary living costs, as such the provision of meals or laundry services, which would be outside of this maximum;
- Authorities must ensure any charge set for a service does not reduce a service user’s remaining income below the amount of their Income Support (including premiums), Employment and Support Allowance or Guarantee Pension Credit, plus a “buffer” of at least 35% of that amount. This is to ensure that after charging users have at least a minimum amount to meet their daily living costs.
- In addition, authorities must allow at least a further 10% of a service user’s entitlement (to make at least 45% in total) as a contribution towards the additional livings costs a user will have as the result of a disability or medical condition.
Authorities must also disregard in full all amounts received by the service user as earnings or savings credits so as to promote the independence of service users.
COSLA are in the midst of their annual review of the Care Charging Guidance that they issue every year. Most years it hardly makes any difference- there is usually just an uplift for inflation. However this year there has been more interest in the subject than ever and we may get some real changes. LDAS sent comments in and you can read them here.
Most of the comments from other organisations have now been published on the COSLA website. For some reason ours isn't there. We know they have recieved ours. Maybe they'll get round to putting it up soon!
Across Scotland neighbouring local authorities can have huge variations in charges for social care. For example, Aberdeenshire charges £10.00 an hour for care at home while Angus charges up to £22.50 for the same service. The types, range and scale of the needs of people in each area do not vary, nor does the actual support that they receive, just this incredible variation in charges. Download the care charging map.
There is a means test which councils say make this fair and that no one will pay what they cannot afford. But
- 6 councils will take between a quarter and a half of your spare income
- 7will take exactly half
- 9 will take between a half and three quarters
- While 6 will take ALL your spare cash.
This year councils have been raising their charges to make up for the cuts and the council tax freeze. Glasgow alone wants to take another £1.5 million from older and vulnerable people this year alone.