A Manifesto Promise
The SNP was elected in May 2016 to form the next Scottish Government. Their manifesto contained some very clear promises to tackle social care charges.
The SNP commitment was
1. We will also examine the introduction of the extension of free personal and nursing care to those under 65 with a diagnosis of dementia.
2. We will make charges for social care services fairer. We have already invested £6 million to increase the income threshold at which someone becomes liable for charges, and we will continue to take action to make the system fairer still.
3. We will exempt War Pension for veterans and Guaranteed Income Payments under the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme for those injured after April 2005, from consideration in assessments for care charges. And, as part of our strategy to support veterans – Renewing Our Commitments – we will revise existing charging guidelines so that war disablement pensions are fully disregarded from social care means tests.
4. We will also consult on the introduction of national guidance for care charges and, as part of this, consider the option of a cap that takes account of the costs of disability related expenditure
Unfortunately there was no mention of any action on this in the Leader's plans for the next year. We do hope that there will be some news soon.
Has the First Step Failed?
Earlier this year we reported that the SNP Government was investing additional funds in making Social Care Charges fairer. Unfortunately it doesn't seem to have worked.
Earlier this year as part of the budget settlement with local councils, the Scottish Government included £6 million as to increase income thresholds so disabled people would have to pay less for social care charges. This money was included in the additional £250 million given to Health and Social Care Partnerships to improve social care. And each council’s share of this was to be about £187,500 per year. Each disabled person affected could have been expected to be about £10 a week better off. This was to be a step to meeting the demands of campaigners such as the Frank’s Law campaign who argue that making people under 65 pay care charges is unfair.
However local councils seem to have taken the money and done the opposite.
1. Highland Health and Social Care Partnership have reduced the income threshold that people under 65 need to have before they start paying care charges from £177 to £123 at their meeting on the 3rd of March 2016. This will mean that disabled people who need social care will have to pay up to £22 a week more than they currently do.
2. Perth and Kinross have increased the amount of money they take from older people 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. They expect to raise an additional £200,000 from people who are living on as little as £8,500 per year.
3. Angus have frozen the amount of money that younger disabled people are allowed to keep to live on and not raised it in line the funding provided by the Scottish Government.
4. Dundee Council has still to decide on what to do about the income thresholds but has in the meantime increased the cost of most of its social care services.
5. Aberdeenshire Council has decided to treble the amount it takes from people ge tting social care. Instead of asking people to pay just one third of the cost of their support, it is now asking them to pay for it all. This will cost disabled and older people in the area with as little as £16,000 in the bank hundreds of thousands of pounds each year.
A first step
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.
This article was first published on www.ldascotland.org
End the Care Tax - Consultation Closed
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.
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