On October 7th 2015 Siobhan McMahon MSP launched a consultation on the abolition of non-residential social care charges at the Scottish Parliament.   The consultation closed on  Friday 30th January 2016.

You can read some of the responses made by members of Scotland Against the Care Tax by clicking on the links below.  

Scotland Against the Care Tax Main response

Scotland Against the Care Tax Consultation Event One

Scotland Against the Care Tax Consultation Event Two

Learning Disability Alliance Scotland

Inclusion Scotland

Quarriers

We would like to thank the committee for the opportunity to comment on the 6 responses received to our petition on care charges.  Our approach through all of our work is to emphasise that getting the right support to live good lives in the community is about fulfilling the human rights of disabled and older people.   Charging for social care forces people in Scotland to trade off the right to have nutritious food or to be warm and secure in their own home with help to get out of bed in the morning.  Scots law recognises that people should be given the support they need (Robertson 2002) but social care charging threatens this vital response. 

We were disappointed that only the response from Argyll & Bute seemed to wrestle with this truly important matter.   Both COSLA and the Scottish Government focus very heavily on the Financial Assessment Templates as if human rights only apply to poor people.  Even the EHRC seemed too concerned with the technical details of policy to realise that there is a real challenge that affects real people.

Mr Sneddon from Argyll & Bute recognises that a question mark must be placed over whether it is “appropriate to charge individuals for services which are organised or delivered based on assessed needs.”  In this we would agree with him.

Recently members of voluntary organisation who work with people affected by the care tax met with COSLA and representatives of local councils to suggest ways that the Care Tax could be made fairer.  In the rest of this article you can read what they proposed.

However they were unable to get agreement to proceed with any of the suggestions although they were not ruled out.  Some people see this as a pattern in COSLA's approach - nothing is ever ruled out but nothing ever really seems to change.  That's why more and more people and organisations are joining up the Scotland Against the Care Tax.  

 Our Position on Charging for Non Residential Services

It is our position that people should not be charged for social care services which they are assessed as needing.  There is no justifiable argument to levy a charge on people who require a service to provide them with equal access to independent living and to participate in the workplace and in their local communities.  Local Authorities will argue that they rely on care charges to offset the cost of providing social care services .  However, this argument is not applied elsewhere when it comes to them delivering on their statutory responsibilities.  No other sector of society is expected to contribute to the cost of providing services in such a disproportionate way.

As the situation stands at the moment, not only are the users of social care services charged for their use, but very often these charges are confusing, excessive and unfair and there is a great degree of variation between local authorities and between services within local authorities.  While our ultimate goal is for local authorities to scrap care charging, we believe that there are measures that can be taken in the interim to reduce inequity and produce local charging policies which are both fair and transparent. 

Over the first three years of the Council Tax freeze, councils across Scotland have made up the shortfall in their incomes by rapidly increasing the amount that they receive in Care Tax from vulnerable adults.  The Care Tax is the proper name for client contributions or charging for non residential community care services. 

The Chart shows a consistent rise of 12% in just two financial years, much faster than inflation and we expect further increases when the next round of figures is made available in Feb 2014.  

In the three years to 2012 income from charges went up by 29.5% for people using day services, 42% for those who needed equipment and physical aids and a massive 84% for people who got a Direct Payment.  

Demand for social work services is continuing to grow ; at the same time, public sector finance is declining . The result is a gap in funding for social care.  

There have been two main responses to this gap between supply and demand of community care – one has been to raise thresholds for accessing services; and the other has been to ask the people who are receiving the services, to pay more for them – including older people who don’t pay for personal care but do have to pay for domestic support or support to leave the house and meet friends.  

We believe that neither of these approaches recognises; social care as an equality and human rights issue, the value of it for the equality or human rights of disabled and older people – nor the poverty experienced by them; or addresses the fundamental problem – that there is not enough money in social care.

The sums

Community care charges contribute only 3% (= approx. £42.6m) of the cost of social care in Scotland .  This may seem like a small percentage, however, it is important to understand this from the point of view of the supported person.

For disabled and older people/people who use social care services, this 3% accounts for up to 100% of their (disposable – i.e. after housing costs) income  - in one local authority, people pay as much as £600 per week care tax.   This is even more concerning when we note that many (47.5%) households including a disabled person are living in poverty :  50% of disabled people of working age are in work, compared with 80% of non-disabled people of working age  and of the £18bn in benefit cuts proposed as part of Welfare Reform, a disproportionate amount will fall on disabled people .  This poverty is particularly hard felt as research by Leonard Cheshire Disability  notes that disabled people face a 25% higher cost of living than non-disabled people.  

In addition the cost of collecting charges is largely unknown.  Whilst it used only a small survey, one of the only figures on the costs of collecting charges is from the Audit Commission in England.  They reported in 2000 that between 20-40% of income from charges is spent on administration costs .  Perhaps more important than the overall cost however, is that what happens to the charges.  Often, LA’s defend charges by saying they are an essential source of revenue for charges, however, as figure 1 shows, only 38% of the charges taken are put back into front line provision .

Figure 1:  What happens to charges once they are collected