Right To A Real Life Campaign
Right to a Real Life Without 'Unfair' Care Charges
The Right to a Real Life campaign was launched in Dumfries and Galloway in November 2016 in response to rising care charges in the area for people aged 60 and under.
Vulnerable people living with disability are already struggling to pay the rising costs of care charges at the hands of many of Scotland’s Councils.
But in Dumfries & Galloway the rise has been compounded by a lowering in the income allowance rates when charging begins.
A group of individuals, families and carers determined to fight back against these changes set up the Right to A Real Life campaign to force their Council to back down.
In 2016 Dumfries and Galloway 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%.
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.”
A message from Andrew Doyle:
“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.”
Letter to Dumfries & Galloway Council
Disabled People asked to pay £1,500 extra per year for social care – LDAS text of letter and accompanying information:
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.