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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.
Edinburgh’s Engine Shed is now in the process of closing and will wind up over the next 3 months. The closure of this service raises a number of issues that are of interest to policies.
- 1. Lack of long term funding for supported employment
- 2. Policy rush to accommodate new ideas
- 3. Cherry picking of those most able to achieve employment
- 4. “Give back” funding to win contracts
- 5. Lack of choice of personalised suport
The Engine Shed in Edinburgh provided organic bread, tofu and other food stuffs, ran a popular café and well used conference facilities. But it’s main job was to provide training opportunities for 30 young people with learning disabilities, autism and other special needs. Over a three year placement these young people had plenty of time to get ready for the world of work.
The Engine Shed has an impressive record of helping young people move into paid employment. They raised over half the running costs themselves. Edinburgh Council backed its operations with an essential grant to pay for the staff that provided the training. But the value of this grant had fallen over time. The Engine Shed was getting less money in 2013 than they did in 2003. Many other organisations have the same problems as local authority funding is squeezed.
In 2013 the council announced a new plan. Instead of just funding the six Edinburgh organisations which helped people with disabilities get job, a competitive tender would see a single service start in April 2015. This would be based on a ‘supported employment ‘model i.e. where individuals are placed in work and then given support. The council would move its support away from training opportunities.
Although this will be suitable for some people, it definitely won’t be appropriate for all the clients the Engine Shed support as they require much more help to even get to the point where employment becomes even worth considering.
At the time many people thought this was short-sighted and did not take into account the differing needs of young people with special needs. Supported employment works well for many but not all. So thousands signed petitions, wrote to councillors and were able to win a year’s reprieve for the service.
But over the last 12 months, despite the fine words and intentions of some councillors, the policy of the council didn’t change. It continued to pursue the single approach to helping people into work and all the special employment services were put out to competitive tender in May. Payment to the winning organisation or consortium would be by the number of jobs achieved.
This week sees the launch of the Learning Disability Alliance England. For us in Scotland, despite all the recent work over the referendum there are many concerns that we share with people in England – welfare reform, employment, the development of the economy and equality issues.
For example, the roll out of Universal Credit across the whole of the UK will see the end of Severe Disability Premium which helps people with learning disabilities live independently. Many people will be forced to make hard choices about rent, heating and food – all of which can cost more for people with disabilities, no matter which side of the border they live on.
We think that there will be many more things that are devolved that we can still cooperate on. Many people don’t realise that case law and precedent set in either Scotland or England usually applies subsequently in both. Legal rulings on equality law in England help us in Scotland while case law on assessment from Scotland helps make sure councils play fair in England.
Today more than ever austerity makes us all brothers and sisters. We hope that together we can really begin to change the way that people with learning disabilities are seen and listened to no matter where they live in the United Kingdom. Working together we are all stronger.
The number of people with substantial learning disabilities in England and Wales who are in paid employment has fallen.
While unemployment in Britain generally has been fallen, the Department of Health has suggested that the proportion of learning disabled people who were in paid employment fell from 7% in 2012-13 to 6.8% in 2013-14.
This is probably caused by cuts in the supported employment programmes which help people get into work.
Figures for Scotland from ESAY suggest paid employment in Scotland is less at only 6.2% (not including those training for employment)