Care Charges – The Story So Far
A Modest Proposal
SACT believes that the Scottish Government’s proposal to extend free personal care to under 65s, while welcome, will only benefit a small proportion of the 9,000 people who access personal care and will fall far short of the government’s ambition for this policy that ‘all those who require personal care are able to access it.’
SACT is now calling for a fairer method of implementation. In order to deliver the Extension of Free Personal Care, each adult under 65 receiving care would still be assessed and the balance between personal care and other support in their care package would be identified.
The current charging regimes would still be applied with all the income thresholds, allowable expenses, taper rates and service rates. However, at the end, after the current calculation has been made, a Personal Care Rebate is applied to the charges deducting the individual cost of personal care hours.
The Cost of Personal Care is a simple calculation of number of hours times the local hourly rate. This establishes the maximum possible level of rebate. The value of the rebate can never be greater than the “original contribution/charge”.
- Where the cost of personal care was higher or equal to the “original contribution/charge” a null charge would be set.
- Where the cost of personal care was lower than the “original contribution/charge” a reduced charge would be set.
The Scottish Government would still set the amount it was going to transfer to each local authority in lieu of personal care charges in its normal budget setting process
SACT has published a more detailed paper that goes into more detail and looks at the equality issues about treating older people and younger adults differently.
Care Charges—The Ongoing War On Disabled People
In January ’16, 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
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.
Care Charges Parliamentary Debate
On 6 December ’16 Johann Lamont, Labour MSP raised led a debate on the issue of care charges in the Scottish Parliament.
LDAS members addressed a reception of MSPs following the debate and each gave speech about their own experiences of the care tax.
Care Charges Consultation Closed
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.
The numbers just don’t add up!
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.