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.
Note: The Frank's Law campaign continues to gather public support - the picture shows Rafael Nadal backing the Frank’s Law campaign to End Care Charges