Created on 25 November 2016

VULNERABLE people living with disability are struggling to pay the rising costs of care charges at the hands of many of Scotland’s Councils.

Now one group of people in Dumfries & Galloway are determined to fight back and have set up the Right to A Real Life campaign to force their Council to back down.

Earlier this year the Council agreed to lower the income allowance that people aged under 60 would be able to keep before being charged for care services from £177 to £132, while increasing the tax rate on income allowance from 55% to 65%.

For the Council, this means an extra £423,000 a year in income.  For those who need care services, it means poverty, deprivation and a reduction in their quality of life as costs soar by as much as 600%.

Andrew Doyle

Many people living with disability, and their families and carers, say they cannot afford to meet these costs and will struggle to survive if they have to go on paying them.

Andrew Doyle, Chair of the Learning Disability Alliance Scotland, is one of the people affected by the increased care tax in Dumfries and Galloway and has helped form the Right to A Real Life campaign to force the Council to back down.

Andrew calls the increase an “unfair attack” on those with support needs with people paying between £25 and £35 a week more for their care package. The rising costs are seeing some having to pay up to £70 a week out of their small incomes.

“We are really worried people will stop their support because of the cost and end up being at risk of needing far more help in the future when they get into a crisis,” explained Andrew. “This will put more pressure on the NHS, affecting us all. It doesn’t make sense.”

He added that the increase was making life “much harder” for people who already live on tight budgets.

He said: “That’s why I have got together with other disabled people in the area to campaign for the ‘Right to A Real Life’. We call on the Council to reverse its decision.”

The Dumfries campaigners have really given a boost to others all over Scotland who are worried about the Care Tax.   Both Highland and Perth & Kinross are doing the same thing as in Dumfries.  And other councils are seeking to raise charges again next year to help with their reduced budgets.

However there is a Members Debate in the Scottish Parliament in December calling for an end to all care charges.  More and more MSPs are beginning to question why disabled people are being asked to pay so much when they often have so little.

Support the Dumfries campaign by signing the Right to A Real Life online petition at www.change.org. You can also find out more about the campaign by going to the Right to A Real Life Facebook page.

Care Charging Case Study:

Lesley’s Story –  What The Increase Really Means

Lesley, aged 25, lives with her parents in Dumfries & Galloway. She has a number of conditions, uses a wheelchair and needs care and support inside and outside the home. Her care charges have gone up from £5.03 a week to £31.30. For Lesley this means she will no longer be able to afford to go out with her carers, do things in her local community and spend time with other people.

She said: “My personalisation care plan meant I could do things without my mum. I could go places and speak to people, buy things for myself and order my own meals. I became more confident.  Now I will have to give all that up, which I really don’t want to do but I can’t afford to pay for it now.

“I feel it’s always the disabled people that get hit the hardest. It’s as if we are an easy target. I thought personalisation was set up to help disabled people not make things worse.”

 

Created on 3 November 2016

Andrew Doyle, Chairman of LDAS

“Hi.  My name is Andrew Doyle and I need your help to stop an unfair attack on the lives of disabled people, people with mental health conditions and other support needs in Dumfries and Galloway.   The local council has started to ask people who need social care to pay between £25 and £35 more per week for their support.   This is on top of any money people were paying last year so some people are now paying up to £70 per week for support out of nothing more than their ESA and disability benefits. 

We are really worried that many people will stop their support because of the cost and end up being at risk of needing far more help in the future when they get into crisis.   This will put more pressure on the NHS which is already stretched, affecting us all.  It doesn’t make sense.

For other people, like myself and my wife, it will make life much harder.  We already live on a tight budget and rarely go out.  In the future, we will have to stay home all the time and have to cut back on food and heating.

The Council says it has been too generous in the past treating all disabled people the same.  Now they want people under 60 to pay more.  But it’s not true that our council has been the most generous.   19 out of 32 councils in Scotland charge less than Dumfries and Galloway.

I have got together with other disabled people in the area to campaign for the “Right To A Real Life”.  We are asking the council to reverse its decision of February 2016 to cut the income allowance for disabled people under 60 and give us equality with people over 60.”

Please sign our online petition by clicking here.

Disabled People asked to pay £1,500 extra per year for social care.

Created on 12 October 2016

Easy Read Briefing Note

Easy Read Guide to What is happening

List of Dumfries and Galloway Councillors

Briefing Note

Dear Councillor

I am writing to ask for your help in reversing an unfair decision by Dumfries & Galloway Council earlier this year.  The effect of this are only coming to light now and causing great hardship to disabled people under the age of 65 throughout the area.

On 29th February the Council approved a report which changed the income allowance that people under 65 could keep before paying charges. The Income Allowance for people under 65 went down from £177 to £132 per week while the Income Allowance for people over 65 went up from £177 to £195 per week.

At the same time the tax rate that people paid on the extra income they had about the Income Allowance went up from 55% to 65%.

The increase for every disabled person under 65 in Dumfries and Galloway getting social care is between £25 and £40 per week. (65% of the £45 extra plus or minus a little more)  This payment will be on top of any existing payments meaning that many people will now be asked to pay as much as £70-80 per week.

The trigger for this change was a payment of £184,000 from the Scottish Government to reduce the amount that disabled people should pay in care charges.  In Dumfries & Galloway this became a proposal to increase the amount people would have to pay.

Charging for social care is common.  People who need care at home, day care or community alarms are asked to pay something towards this.  The amount you pay depends on how much income you have.

While the overall calculation is quite complicated it start from a simple premise.  You get an income allowance like the tax allowance from the HMRC which says how much you can keep before you start paying for services.   The extra money you have above that is taxed as a rate that the council sets.

Our concern in not about making a contribution – it the sudden, sharp increase that has been announced. Dumfries and Galloway’s decision to reduce the income allowance and increase the tax level will hit disabled people under 65 in the area hard.

On Wednesday we met with local people from across the area and heard a range of stories how it might affect people.

  • From Newton Stewart, a young man with support needs is seeing his charges goes up from £30 per week to £72 per week.
  • From Stranraer, one person with learning disabilities is facing a 6 fold increase
  • In Annan, a couple with learning disabilities face a weekly increase of £60 in their payments
  • In Dumfries a young man with learning disabilities and physical disabilities has had his charges go up by 4 times

These are just the start as the increases are being rolled out linked to annual reviews which started in June and will carry on until the same time in 2017.

We know that Councillors are having to make hard decision about funding but we think there are a number of reasons why the decision should be reviewed.

  1. The report of the 29th February did not make clear what the effect of the changes would be on disabled people under 65.  It only talked about percentage changes and not how much money people would be left with before paying charges.  The only cash figure used was the nominal charge for assistive technology of £3.84 which gave the false impression that the effect was minor on the individuals involved.
  2. Working people only start paying Income Tax for the services that they use after they earn £220 per week.  This single Income Allowance has been set by the UK government at what they think is a reasonable level which applies to everyone regardless of age.  Dumfries and Galloway Council have set a much lower level of £132 per week for disabled people under 65 before they have to start paying charges.
  3. Disabled People have higher costs for many things.  They pay more for many ordinary things in the community.  It is hard for many to get out to the biggest and cheapest supermarket and so pay more for their food.  People have to pay for their clubs and activities.  Taxi travel can quickly eat up the limited amount people get in mobility benefits and eat into their other money.  They need more money to just get by.

We would like to ask you to speak to your colleagues to see if a review of the decision could be made.    Discussing it again through putting a motion up to the council would give councillors a chance to think clearly about this issue rather than as one item in amongst a lot of other budget papers.

 

Created on 27 July 2016

The Frank’s Law campaign is continuing to gather public support from across Scotland, including some high profile figures.

But this summer it can count two of the world’s greatest sportsmen among those now lending their support to the campaign.

Scotland’s own Andy Murray, and fellow tennis ace Rafael Nadal both took time out this summer to accept a Frank’s Law campaign t-shirt in support of the work of the campaign.

Below the tennis champions were hold up their t-shirts and confirm their support for Frank’s Law.

Great players and a great cause!

ACE SERVE FROM NADAL
Tennis Ace Rafael Nadal shows off his campaign shirt

 

Tennis champ Andy Murray receives his campaign T-shirt

 

Care Charges—The Ongoing War On Disabled People

Created on 20 May 2016

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.

Perth and Kinross (11/2/16) have increased their charges by removing “transitional protection” granted last year and now asking them to pay as much of the full cost of their social care as they can manage and expect to raise an additional £200,000

Aberdeenshire Council (17/12/15) has decided to ask disabled people to pay the full costs of their support, rather than just a third.  This change is particularly targeted at those with savings or those in work and could raise upwards of £350,000.

West Lothian (15/12/15) has brought in a Contributions Policy from April 1st which will extend charges to an additional 300 people generating an expected £750,000 per year.

Everyone knows that there is a problem on how Scotland will fund social care, but while hands are being wrung about how hard it is to introduce a new system, older and disabled people are being asked to pay more without a national discussion that means anything.

The SNP Government have said they want to make charges for social care services fairer.    They might stop charges for people with specific conditions such as dementia (Frank’s Law) and will look at new national rules about care charges that councils MUST follow.  These could include a limit on how much any one had to pay for care charges and could insist that disability related expenditure is taken into account.

The experience above shows that the key word here is MUST.  If councils are not obliged to limit their social care charging, then under the financial pressures that they face, things can only get worse.

 

CUTS IN COUNCIL AFTER COUNCIL BUT GOOD NEWS IN FALKIRK

Created on 17 March 2016

Many councils such as Glasgow and Edinburgh have announced plans to cut their budgets in the coming financial year. Others such as North Ayrshire and Aberdeenshire are promising to increase the amount they take in Care Charges again!
But in Falkirk, campaigners have managed to get the council to think again about one particular cut. Falkirk Equal People , one of the members of LDAS, meets weekly in Grangemouth to encourage members to become more independent and act as advocates for social justice and equal opportunities.
The local council supports the group with a free let all year round, and 13 hours of support work. However, budget proposals suggested this help would end and the group might have to stop operating altogether.
A large public meeting was held in Grangemouth where it was said “this would be an example of an extremely short-sighted cut. If this group goes then you are going to see more people demanding support from health services and social services and this will end up costing a lot more money.”
Hundreds of signatures were collected on a petition. A demonstration was planned outside the Council’s budget meeting along with a deputation inside. However a few days before the council met, the group were told that plans for any cuts this year were being withdrawn.
While none of the members were resting as the cuts might re-emerge next year, this is a result the group can be proud of.

 

Created on 01 February 2016

The Consultation on the need for a new Private Members Bill on Ending the Care Tax has now closed.

You can read our response to this by clicking here.  

You can read a number of other responses by going over the Scotland Against the Care Tax website. 

 

Created on 29 January 2016

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.

 

A chart showing the relationship between rising care charges and falling numbers of home care clients

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.

 

Created on 16 December 2015

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.

Senior Glasgow finance staff have now confirmed that the ILF contributions of 254 clients with a learning disability, a total of £5.3 million are included in their figures for income from care charges.

But there are a further 310 service users in Glasgow with physical disabilities who receive ILF and whose ILF is similarly treated within the financial figures.  This means that probably an additional £10 million and possibly as much as £14 million of ILF monies have been declared as income from non-residential social care charges by Glasgow for the last 6 years.

Actual income from care charges in Scotland’s largest city may be only £2-3 million per year.

According to OLM, the company responsible for this software, a further 13 Scottish councils use the CareFirst system ranging from Highlands to East Dunbartonshire.  As a result there is a possibility that the COSLA figure for income from care charges is further inflated by the inclusion of ILF funds in this part of the local government finance statistics from other areas.

Regular readers of this newsletter will know of our long campaign to end care charges and will have read many stories about the challenges people have to face to pay these.  But we expected better than this,

Do local councils have so little respect for disabled people that it doesn’t matter to them whether or not the figures are out by £10 million  or more?

We all expect far more in a Fairer Scotland.

The Computer doesn't know either

 

Created on 09 December 2015

The Petitions Committee considered the Stop the Care Tax petition again on Tuesday 8th of December.    They were struck by the difference in figures presented by the government which said that the immediate costs of ending care charges was £55 million and the ongoing annual costs was £330 million and those by SACT which said that the ongoing costs were only £20-25 million and only an additional 4-5 million per year caused by extension of charging.

The Committee agreed to write to the Scottish Government and Professor David Bell.

We think this will be very interesting as we don’t think that the Scottish Government’s figures add up and we also think that despite the impression given in other evidence Professor David Bell has nothing to do with these figures.

The Couriers published an interesting article on this today.

Not online

 

 

Major error in income to councils from care charges

Created on 02 December 2015

New research by LDAS has discovered a serious error in the way social care charges are being calculated in Scotland’s largest local authority.   For over 5 years, we have raised concerns about the veracity of COSLA figures for the amount of income collected in non-residential social care charges.    Glasgow claimed to raise over £16 million annually but the next nearest is South Lanarkshire with only a slightly smaller population but raising just £2 million.    Our concern that the Glasgow figure could not possibly be correct was raised with senior local authority finance people but nothing was done.

New information we received 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.    .

Senior Glasgow finance staff have now confirmed that the ILF contributions of 254 clients with a learning disability, a total of £5.3 million are included in their figures for income from care charges.   And there are a further 310 service users in Glasgow with physical disabilities who receive ILF and whose ILF is similarly treated within the financial figures.  This means that at least £10 million and possibly as much as £14 million[1] of ILF monies have been declared as income from non-residential social care charges by Glasgow for at least the last 6 years.   Actual income from care charges in Scotland’s largest city may be only £2-3 million per year rather than the £16 million claimed in the last financial year. 

According to OLM, the company responsible for this software, a further 13 Scottish councils use the CareFirst system ranging from Highlands to East Dunbartonshire.  As a result there is a possibility that the COSLA figure for income from care charges is further inflated by the inclusion of ILF funds in this part of the local government finance statistics from other areas.

This matters because artificially inflated figures will make it seem harder for the Scottish Government to end social care charges.  Time to correct the sums!

[1] http://www.glasgow.gov.uk/councillorsandcommittees/viewDoc.asp?c=P62AFQDXNT0GUTZL – this report notes that £14.5 million is received by service users in Glasgow from the ILF. But we believe the figure involved in this error is lower as many pre 1993 ILF users are not known to local authorities.

 

Consultation on Abolition of Social Care Charges Launched

Created on 08 October 2015

MSP Siobhan McMahon today launched a consultation on the abolition of non-residential social care charges.The consultation was launched at the Scottish Parliament and will be open until Friday 30th January 2016.

Currently, many disabled people are being driven into poverty due to the increasing amounts of money that they have to pay as a contribution towards their social care.

Ms McMahon believes that non-residential social care is an equality and human rights issue and, therefore, should be free at the point of delivery. She also believes that the current system is unfair, because charging procedures for these care services differ considerably between local authorities.

Previously, a petition was lodged at the Scottish Parliament by the ‘Scotland Against the Care Tax’ group which was signed by 4013 people and urged the Scottish Government to abolish all local authority charges for non-residential social care services.

The consultation has received backing from many organisations including the ‘Scotland Against the Care Tax’ group, Learning Disability Alliance Scotland, and Quarriers, who were all represented at the launch event.

There were also a number of people present from across Scotland who have experienced first-hand the difficulties these charges can present to disabled people who wish to enjoy the things in life that non-disabled people take for granted.

  • You can read the consultation document here, and respond by completing the online Smart Survey here

Siobhan McMahon MSP said: “By carrying out this consultation I hope to encourage debate on the system of social care charging in Scotland and find out the public’s views on the issue.

“For those people who use it, social care is an example of the essential practical assistance and support needed to participate in society and lead an ordinary life. Enabling disabled people to participate in the economic, social, cultural and civic life of the community not only allows them the freedom to exercise their human rights, but also benefits society as a whole.

“I believe that it’s now time to complete the journey that Scotland began 13 years ago when it became the first part of the UK to provide a degree of security for all older people when they started to need care to live in their own homes. We should make sure that this security is extended to everybody who needs social care to enjoy their basic human rights. That surely would be a fairer Scotland.”

Ian Hood, Coordinator at Learning Disability Alliance Scotland, said: “At Learning Disability Alliance Scotland we understand how important this issue is and I would urge as many people as possible across Scotland to respond to Siobhan McMahon’s consultation.

“Social care is essential to many disabled people in order to help them take part in the lives of the communities they were born and grew up in. It’s also essential for those who are facing the end of their lives and want to spend their time with dignity and respect in their own communities.

“One in five people in Scotland have a disability and the number of people living into their 80s and 90s is increasing. Finding an answer to the question of how our society manages their support and helps to keep as many people as possible being fully active and a functioning part of our community is essential.”

 

Created on 6 October 2015

Interesting news today from the Petitions Committee.  The Clerks organised that our petition on ending social care charges for everyone be heard shortly after a petition from Amanda Kopel which was also seeking to end care charges for people with Alzheimer’s and other degenerative conditions.  Because the Cabinet Secretary Shona Robison had been present for an earlier petition she stayed on to comment on the care charging issues.  Her news was

  • Professor David Bell from Strathclyde University has been working on financial options for achieving fairer and more consistent care charges. He has now finished this work and the report is with the Scottish Government.
  • The Scottish Government agree in principle that they need to take action to achieve a fairer social care charging system.
  • The Scottish Government would be reforming care charges for all service users regardless of disability or condition.
  • There were a number of options that the Scottish Government were considering such as Increasing the minimum income disregards or extending Free Personal Care to the under 65s
  • The options that would be eventually chosen would depend on the final decisions over the budget for the next 3 years in Novembers spending reviews
  • The Scottish Government proposals would be published well before the dissolution of the Scottish Parliament in March 2016

This Wednesday sees the launch of a consultation on a private members bill to abolish all social care charges and the work has begun on a number of legal cases to challenge the fundamentals of social care charging.  We are hopeful that these efforts will come together to achieve real and lasting change.

 

What would it cost to abolish care charges

Created on 24 August 2015

This paper is a speculative exploration of what these additional consequences might be.  We believe that the actual cash amount raised is only the first part of the calculation.  In addition there are the high costs of collection, the cost of emergency care for those who decline preventative services because of the level of charges, and the lost income from those who cannot work.  We also believe that the costs of abolition needs to take into account any extra demand for social care that might arise if more people request social care once there is no charge.

Our calculations suggest that the actual cost of abolishing care charges is actually less than half of the amount taken off disabled people – only £22 million instead of the £50 million charged to disabled people. 

But a second element to the calculation suggests that there might be net gain if we take into account the wider changes as a result of abolishing care charges.  With more people going to work and additional spending by disabled people, there could be a net gain of £5 million per year.  Read the Report Here

 

Created on 13 July 2015

Man with Asperger’s ‘punished for being disabled’ after council charges £1,000 for support service.  Steven Oliver uses an outreach service that helped him secure a part time job – but he says the charge means there would be little point in working.

An article in the Daily Mirror shows the increasing concern about rising care charges.

A man says he is “being punished for being disabled” after a council gave him with a £1,049 invoice for the support that allows him to work.

Steven Oliver, 40, who has Asperger Syndrome, had been receiving vital Self-Directed Support (SDS) through an outreach service provided by Autism Initiatives Scotland (AIS).    This support has enabled him to work in a part-time job, for five hours a week over the last year. But Steven was told in November last year that Scottish Borders Council would be asking those using the service to pay a contribution to the cost and in May he received an invoice for £1,049.

Steven, who makes £144 a month in his job, said it will take seven to eight months for him to pay the bill off.   It means there is little point in Steven working, as he only works a few hours a week. But he has vowed to continue working as it “is a job”. Steven, from Duns, Berwickshire, said: “I was absolutely gobsmacked when I received the invoice. It took me completely by shock.

“When the financial assessment was carried out last year, I, along with many other users of SDS were led to believe the contribution would be a modest one.  While I understand that savings have to be made, the council’s attitude – which appears to be one of ‘not our problem’ – is disgraceful.  Part of having Asperger’s, it’s like autism, is the intense anxiety of situations like this, so you can imagine how receiving such an invoice made me feel. The fortnightly meetings with my social worker are designed to combat that. She’s really helped me, with practical and emotional help, things I couldn’t do on my own.”

Read the Full Article Here. 

Created on 06 June 2015

Care Charges – Scotland’s Hidden Rival to the Poll Tax

A patchwork of different 32 different ways of taxing disabled people who require personal and social care is generating anger and discontent across Scotland and levels of non-payment now rival that of the Poll Tax.   Thousands of disabled people all over Scotland are refusing to pay a tax of up to 100% on their income while Scotland’s local and national  politicians have failed to end what everyone agrees is an unacceptable situation.

Shona Robison, Cabinet Secretary for Health, states that “charges made by local authorities for social care, where necessary, need to be fair and affordable.”  But figures from 29 Scottish local councils suggest that disabled people have given up waiting for the Scottish Government to sort the problem.

19% of disabled people, some 14,500, who pay care charges are now in substantial arrears in their Care Tax payments and councils have started debt management procedures against almost 5,600 people.  In 2014, 25 disabled people were taken to court for non-payment of their Care Tax.

In the first year of the non-payment campaign of the Poll Tax only 12.8% of people didn’t pay.  It was only in the second year of the Poll Tax that non-payment levels rose to 21%.

While there is a popular campaign to end care charging led by Scotland Against the Care Tax, no organisation has yet called for an official non payment campaign.  The current levels of non payment are simply the actions of those who cannot afford to pay an unfair tax that leaves them unable to pay for the essential things in the lives of disabled people.

Care Charges are the most unfair tax in Scotland.  It is levied by local councils on disabled people who need personal and social care help.  After a small personal allowance is taken account of, tax rates of up to 100% are applied by local authorities.

Jeff Adamson, Chair of Scotland Against The Care Tax, said, “This level of non payment of the Care Tax indicates a truly unfair and unpopular tax.  All the fancy words from the Scottish Government won’t cover up the fact that disabled people are being hit … and hit hard by this tax and are simply not paying!  Disabled People must be hanging on to millions of pounds in uncollected Care Tax payments that they need more than local councils.”

Ross McWilliam who has support needs and lives in the West of Edinburgh said, “The council want to charge me and my wife over £200 a month.  I think its wrong.  And I just don’t have the money to pay for it!”

Grace Anderson, mother of profoundly disabled adult son said, “Out of the blue we received the charge.  I called the number for the council’s finance department telling them my son has no money and that I cannot pay it for him.  They said we can only advise you to pay this.  I am very concerned that at any moment the council  can stop can stop my sons support while worrying me terribly that debt collectors are going to come to door for my son or the council will take my son to court.”

Scotland Against the Care Tax received 29 responses to its Freedom of Information request.  Councils identified that

• 69,400 disabled and older people were paying care charges

• 14,344 disabled and older people were more than 4 weeks in arrears in payment of these care charges

• 5,583 disabled and older people had debt management procedures started against them

• 25 disabled and older people had court action started against them.

 

Created on 06 June 2015

Introduction

Research by the disability charity Scope estimates that on average, disabled people spend £550 a month on disability-related expenditure, including higher heating bills, buying specialised equipment, paying for taxis to get around or covering higher insurance premiums.

Paying for social care charges can make this even worse so it is important to have such Disability Related Expenditure properly recognised when it comes to any financial assessment

Legal Basis for Charging and Disability Related Expenditure

The Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968 provides the legal basis for charging for non-residential care.  Under s87 of the Act charges must be both “reasonable and practicable” for an individual to pay.

Understanding the associated additional daily living costs of living with an illness or a disability is essential if local authorities are to ensure charging levels meet this test.  Failure to take Disability Related Expenditure (DRE) into account as part of the financial assessment could result in charging levels which cause financial hardship and undermine the right of people living with an illness or disability to live independently.

COSLA’s National Strategy & Guidance on Charges Applying to Non-residential Social Care Services  2015/16 recognises the importance of taking DRE into account and states in paragraph 7.31 on page 31 that “to ensure the extra costs of being disabled are be taken into account by charging policies councils should be proactive in considering further disregard of income where additional expenditure is incurred by a service user as a result of living as a disabled person.”

What is Disability Related Expenditure

Local Authorities accept that additional DRE costs could include the following as well as others.

• additional heating requirements

• purchase, maintenance and repair of  disability related equipment

• specialist dietary requirement

• specialist clothing

• help with cleaning and other domestic tasks

In order to understand what other costs might be, it is helpful to look at the costs with the following broad categories.

A. Specialised goods, often with an added premium

Such as special communication aids, mobility scooters and wheelchairs

B. Greater use of non-specialised goods and services

Such as extra heating or phone costs because you are stuck in the house

C. Higher cost for non-specialised goods and services

Such as having to buy shopping from local shops or get home delivery from more expensive supermarkets.

Other costs that could be included are:

Support

• Costs of any privately arranged and paid for care or support, such as respite care, social clubs or befriending that is paid by you directly (excluding Independent Living Fund or Individual Budgets).  We suggest you break this down into the following categories if they apply

o Social Support

o Emotional support (related to disability)

o Communication support (related to disability)

o Personal care

o Respite care

o Therapeutic treatment

• Costs relating to carers such as sleeping over or meals or cost of their excursions to accompany you.

• Costs of community alarm systems

Equipment

• Purchase and maintenance of any specialist equipment or general equipment related to your disability. We suggest you break this down into the following categories if they apply

o Equipment purchase including any costs of a computer as a communication aid

o Equipment maintenance including costs of communication software and licence.

o Phone Line rental if you only need one because of your disability or your support needs.

o Additional home costs (if you need a bigger home)

o Home renovations

o Home maintenance

o Garden maintenance

o Extra holiday costs

o Financial products and services

o White goods (e.g washing machine/dryer)

Other Costs

• Costs of purchase and additional wear and tear on clothing and footwear

• Any additional costs of utilities that are directly related to your disability (e.g. usually extra heating costs but you could include cost of phone calls etc. if you cannot leave the house because of your disability.)

• Additional bedding costs

• Additional laundry costs

• Costs of activities

• Extra travel costs related to disability if they amount to more than the DLA mobility that you get.  This may include additional vehicle adaptation or maintenance costs.

• Costs of any membership of a support organisation relating to your disability

• Costs of medical supplies, including non-prescription drugs

This list is not exhaustive.  There may be other things that should be included because of your disability and the ways it affects you.

All these costs can only be taken into account if they are genuinely caused by your disability and you have “little or no choice” but to pay them.   You may be asked to explain this further so please note a simple reason down for the inclusion of each item.

How to account for them

Where possible keep receipts for expenditure.  Do so for a number of weeks so that you can average out the cost.

In other cases such as additional costs to a normal bill such as in electricity and gas usage or washing powder usage, an estimate should be acceptable.

For some items that you might only spend once a year or less, such as a computer for communication aid or other specialist equipment, get a weekly average by estimating its useful life.

We have produced a handy form that you can use either as a computer spreadsheet (available from our website)  or on paper to make the calculations.

When to note Disability Related Expenditure

Local authorities should ask you to list any Disability Related Expenditure when they carry out a financial assessment.   This means preparing a list in advance.

However you can submit a list of such costs at any time.  A local authority may only consider this from the date you submit so do this as quickly as possible.

Pursuing the Matter Further

The decision over what to accept is up to the local authority and they may disallow some of the items that you have included.  In that case you may wish to consider the reasons that you included that particular item.  If you are satisfied that a “reasonable person” would agree this was a disability related item, then you should consider pursuing the matter.

Options open to you include 

1. Asking for a review – write directly to the Director of Social Work and ask them to reconsider the decision giving appropriate reasons.

2. Take out a complaint.  – All social work departments have formal complaint systems that have to record and action all complaints.  If you are not satisfied with the first  response, you can appeal to higher member of staff or Review Committee.

3. Seek Legal Action – As indicated above the local authority is required by law to consider whether if their charges are affecting the lives of disabled people.  If you feel that you have been mistreated, you can seek the advice of a lawyer and possible redress through the courts.

 

Created on 9 April 2015

Research by the disability charity Scope estimates that on average, disabled people spend £550 a month on disability-related expenditure, including higher heating bills, buying specialised equipment, paying for taxis to get around or covering higher insurance premiums.

Paying for social care charges can make this even worse so it is important to have such Disability Related Expenditure properly recognised when it comes to any financial assessment

Legal Basis for Charging and Disability Related Expenditure

The Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968 provides the legal basis for charging for non-residential care.  Under s87 of the Act charges must be both “reasonable and practicable” for an individual to pay.

Understanding the associated additional daily living costs of living with an illness or a disability is essential if local authorities are to ensure charging levels meet this test.  Failure to take Disability Related Expenditure (DRE) into account as part of the financial assessment could result in charging levels which cause financial hardship and undermine the right of people living with an illness or disability to live independently.

COSLA’s National Strategy & Guidance on Charges Applying to Non-residential Social Care Services  2015/16 recognises the importance of taking DRE into account and states in paragraph 7.31 on page 31 that “to ensure the extra costs of being disabled are be taken into account by charging policies councils should be proactive in considering further disregard of income where additional expenditure is incurred by a service user as a result of living as a disabled person.”

Read the full article offline and get a print copy of the DRE form

What is Disability Related Expenditure

Local Authorities accept that additional DRE costs could include the following as well as others.

• additional heating requirements

• purchase, maintenance and repair of  disability related equipment

• specialist dietary requirement

• specialist clothing

• help with cleaning and other domestic tasks

In order to understand what other costs might be, it is helpful to look at the costs with the following broad categories.

  1. Specialised goods, often with an added premium – Such as special communication aids, mobility scooters and wheelchairs
  1. Greater use of non-specialised goods and services – Such as extra heating or phone costs because you are stuck in the house
  2. Higher cost for non-specialised goods and services

Such as having to buy shopping from local shops or get home delivery from more expensive supermarkets.

Other costs that could be included are:

Support

Costs of any privately arranged and paid for care or support, such as respite care, social clubs or befriending that is paid by you directly (excluding Independent Living Fund or Individual Budgets).  We suggest you break this down into the following categories if they apply

  • Social Support
  • Emotional support (related to disability)
  • Communication support (related to disability)
  • Personal care
  • Respite care
  • Therapeutic treatment
  • Costs relating to carers such as sleeping over or meals or cost of their excursions to accompany you.
  • Costs of community alarm systems

Equipment

  • Purchase and maintenance of any specialist equipment or general equipment related to your disability. We suggest you break this down into the following categories if they apply
  • Equipment purchase including any costs of a computer as a communication aid
  • Equipment maintenance including costs of communication software and licence.
  • Phone Line rental if you only need one because of your disability or your support needs.
  • Additional home costs (if you need a bigger home)
  • Home renovations
  • Home maintenance
  • Garden maintenance
  • Extra holiday costs
  • Financial products and services
  • White goods (e.g washing machine/dryer)

Other Costs

  • Costs of purchase and additional wear and tear on clothing and footwear
  • Any additional costs of utilities that are directly related to your disability (e.g. usually extra heating costs but you could include cost of phone calls etc. if you cannot leave the house because of your disability.)
  • Additional bedding costs
  • Additional laundry costs
  • Costs of activities
  • Extra travel costs related to disability if they amount to more than the DLA mobility that you get.  This may include additional vehicle adaptation or maintenance costs.
  • Costs of any membership of a support organisation relating to your disability
  • Costs of medical supplies, including non-prescription drugs

This list is not exhaustive.  There may be other things that should be included because of your disability and the ways it affects you.

All these costs can only be taken into account if they are genuinely caused by your disability and you have “little or no choice” but to pay them.   You may be asked to explain this further so please note a simple reason down for the inclusion of each item.

How to account for them

Where possible keep receipts for expenditure.  Do so for a number of weeks so that you can average out the cost.

In other cases such as additional costs to a normal bill such as in electricity and gas usage or washing powder usage, an estimate should be acceptable.

For some items that you might only spend once a year or less, such as a computer for communication aid or other specialist equipment, get a weekly average by estimating its useful life.

We have produced a handy form that you can use either as a computer spreadsheet  or on paper to make the calculations.

When to note Disability Related Expenditure

Local authorities should ask you to list any Disability Related Expenditure when they carry out a financial assessment.   This means preparing a list in advance.

However you can submit a list of such costs at any time.  A local authority may only consider this from the date you submit so do this as quickly as possible.

Pursuing the Matter Further

The decision over what to accept is up to the local authority and they may disallow some of the items that you have included.  In that case you may wish to consider the reasons that you included that particular item.  If you are satisfied that a “reasonable person” would agree this was a disability related item, then you should consider pursuing the matter.

Options open to you include

1. Asking for a review – write directly to the Director of Social Work and ask them to reconsider the decision giving appropriate reasons.

2. Take out a complaint.  – All social work departments have formal complaint systems that have to record and action all complaints.  If you are not satisfied with the first  response, you can appeal to higher member of staff or Review Committee.

3. Seek Legal Action – As indicated above the local authority is required by law to consider whether if their charges are affecting the lives of disabled people.  If you feel that you have been mistreated, you can seek the advice of a lawyer and possible redress through the courts.

 

Created on 15 November 2014

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.

 

Created on 12 August 2014

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.

Jeff Adamson, who is the lead signatory on the petition, worked all his life before being struck by a sudden illness at age 41. Jeff pays 79% of the income from his occupational pension on the care he receives from the local authority.

Jeff said: “I pay the Care Tax in Midlothian.  I have a private pension from a previous job and the Care Tax seems to swallow it up.  My payment has just gone up to £661 a month! Another £760 a year!  ”

 Sign the petition here