Making Care Charges Fairer Across Scotland

When considering whether and how to charge for non-residential social services Local Authorities should take account of the Social Model of Disability, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and any other related principles on the independent of, and social inclusion of, older and disabled people.

Charging policies should be seen within this context and should equally seek to promote the independence and social inclusion of service users.  Charging policies therefore

1.     need to be fair and reasonable,

2.     take account of the costs of providing or arranging services,

3.     take account of the financial means of service users and

4.     take account of the financial and other impacts on service users of having to pay charges.

We are proposing the following amendments to the 2014-15 COSLA guidance  to meet these 4 conditions and are recommending that they are incorporated into a standard financial assessment for use within all local authorities in Scotland

A single level of disregard linked to the Pension Credit level for all people across Scotland (currently £170).  

We propose that all local authorities adopt a common income disregards for all individuals based on the Pension Credit level plus 16.5%.   This would make it more transparent to understand what an individual would be left with. 

·        There is currently a suggestion that having separate income disregards based on age any breach discrimination rules.  This standardisation would render such arguments null and void. 

·        There is requirement that local authorities allow younger adults meet the costs of Disability Related Expenditure before assessing available income.

·        This could be a simpler alternative to extending new suggestions or rules on the treatment of   Disability Related Expenditure – justifying the higher level for younger adults as allowing  income to cover DRE

·        Currently 9 local authorities in Scotland already do this with a £170 income disregard for all adults irrespective of age.   Aberdeenshire   - East Dunbartonshire  - Edinburgh, City of  - Eilean Siar  - Fife  - Highland  - Perth & Kinross  - Dundee City   - North Lanarkshire

·        No individual service user would be worse off by this change. 

Taper rate to be no higher than 50%.

We propose that all local authorities adopt a taper rate on income above the Income Disregard of no more than 50%.  

·        The taper rate is effectively a tax on income above the Income Disregard level.    No standard rate is applied and the COSLA guidance currently makes no suggestions as to what are acceptable levels.  The current highest level of Income Tax is 40%.   Rates are higher than anyone other tax rate in the UK

·        Very high taper rates are likely to remove incentive to work or to become more independent.

·        Currently 15 local authorities currently have taper rates of 50% or less

 

A maximum charge of £50 per week.

We propose a cap on the maximum level of charges at £50 per week for all the services received.

·        This will allow councils to continue a policy of flat rate charging for services such as attendance at day or telecare while bring these an overall charging policy.

·        A cap would ensure different charging policies throughout Scotland are designed and operated in a way seen to be fair and reasonable, and to operate consistently within the overall objective of social care of promoting the independence and social inclusion of service users.

·        An exception to this maximum charge could be for those services which substitute for ordinary living costs, as such the provision of meals or laundry services.

·        Currently a number of local authorities have a cap on the maximum level of charges with the lowest cap being set in Falkirk at £23.90 per week.

 

Taking Disability Related Expenditure into account

The measures we have put forward in this paper are intended to ensure that the users of social care services are not excessively charged for the services they use and that their contribution to costs is reasonable.  For many people these measures alone will ensure that they are no longer expected to manage on a minimum income and their life opportunities are not restricted as a result of financial constraints. 

 

However, in some circumstances the additional costs of disability related expenditure (DRE) require further consideration to ensure people are left with sufficient income. Councils must be proactive in considering further disregard of income where additional expenditure is incurred by a service user as a result of living with a disability.

 

Understanding Disability Related Expenditure (DRE) is essential if local authorities are to avoid charging disabled people more than they can afford for non-residential social care services. 

Councils should be proactive in having a conversation about additional disability related expenses as part of their financial assessment process. These costs should then used to determine what the appropriate income threshold is for each individual.

 

Additional costs may relate to, but will not be restricted to:

·        additional heating requirements

·        purchase, maintenance and repair of  disability related equipment

·        specialist dietary requirement

·        specialist clothing

·        help with cleaning and other domestic tasks.

 

Clarification on Partners income and Joint Income 

It is our position that it is unfair to take a partner’s income into account when assessing the contribution a person has to make towards their community care services, as the service is being provided to the individual not their partner.

Partners are often providing significant levels of care to the person and, as such should be recognised and valued as net providers of care, whose contribution provides a significant saving to both health and social care.  They should not face additional hardship simply because they care for their spouse or partner.

Our aim is to ensure that a partners’ sole income cannot be taken into account within a financial assessment.  This should be unambiguous with no discretion for any other approach by individual local authorities.

Where a couple have joint income or capital, only the person’s share of this income (no more than 50%) should be taken into account.  This is a reasonable approach which takes account of the person’s share of household costs.  However, this must be applied consistently and have flexibility to set at a lower percentage share.  Furthermore, it should be part of a wider standard financial assessment that takes account of issues such as disability related expenditure (see above).

We have concerns over proposals that, where benefits are paid to one member of a couple at the couples rates (for example, pension credit, income support etc.) local authorities will be able to take into account a “reasonable proportion” of this income, with the authority deciding what a reasonable proportion is.  

It is vital that a standard financial assessment is brought into place to ensure that a maximum proportion is set to ensure that those on the lowest incomes do not face inequity and hardship.

In the interim, we want to ensure that local authorities understand and implement new guidance from CoSLA on the treatment of partners income.