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.
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