Charging for Social Care: A tax on the need for support?
Charging disabled people for their care and support is driving many of them into debt and forcing them to cut their spending on food or heating, according to new research by a network of disabled people's organisations and their allies.
The study, by the Independent Living Strategy group, found that 4 in 10 of those responding to a survey had experienced a substantial increase in charges over the last couple of years. Nearly half (43%) had had to cut back on their spending on food to pay for care and 2/5 of respondents (40%) said they had had to cut back on heating costs to pay for care and support.
The study concludes that charging for the support disabled people need to go about their daily lives is "unfair, counterproductive and undermines the primary purpose of the care and support system".
The effect of charging, it says, is often to "drive disabled people into care poverty, and to create confusion, stress and complexity in an already overly burdened bureaucratic system" through what is effectively "an unhelpful and unnecessary tax on disability and old age".
All but one of the local authorities, Hammersmith and Fulham, impose charges on some of their service-users. The study heard from one disabled person who benefited from Hammersmith and Fulham's no-charging policy, who said: "Social care is a human right. It's an essential service like education or the NHS. "It's not ethical to charge for it, in effect it's an extra tax."
Charging for care, says the study, only raises "modest" sums of money - about 12% of spending on care and support - but has a "profound impact on the individual", with an average charge per year of more than £2,000 (£2,243).
Baroness Jane Campbell, who chairs ILSG, said: "Support provided under the Care Act is meant to improve the wellbeing and independence of disabled people. By charging many for that support, the system is making a mockery of the spirit of the legislation and causing worry, stress and poverty. Charging raises a relatively small sum of money which is pushing up costs elsewhere. The financial impact of personal care neglect such as pressure sores, kidney infections or falls, as well as stress related illnesses, means finding extra resources for the NHS."
The group has called on the government to scrap all charges, but if it refused to do that, ILSG said, it should introduce other measures to "mitigate" against the "worst effects" of charging.
These should include monitoring the number of people who decline or decide to stop receiving council-funded support after a charge is imposed or increased.
Only 17 of the 152 councils said they knew how many people had declined or abandoned social care packages they had been assessed as needing once they were told how much they would have to pay.
All councils should also carry out an equality impact assessment of their charging policies, said the group and it said that all councils should introduce an "early warning" system to identify people getting into charges-related debt, introduce a "breathing space" before any debt collection action is taken, and provide access to support to manage such debts.
Sue Bott, deputy chief executive of Disability Rights UK, one of ILSG's members, said: "If councils are to persist in this iniquitous tax on disability, they must at least reintroduce some consistency and clarity to their approach. The many councils that have failed to conduct an equality impact assessment - and to monitor the numbers of disabled people driven out of the care system by charging - must also get their act together."
The government is expected to publish its long-awaited green paper on adult social care funding within weeks.
The Independent Living Strategy Group has been working on protecting and promoting disabled people's rights to independent living in England since 2013.
Its members include disabled people who were part of the independent living movement during the 1970s and in later years, as well as younger activists, other individuals and organisations concerned with independent living.
Charging you a financial contribution towards your care
On the 1st April 2017 Reading Council’s policy for charging some people for their home care and similar services went live. It is now 11 months since Reading Mencap started discussions with the Council’s senior officers and Councillor Rachel Eden but, as at April 2018, we can honestly say that we are not a lot further forward. We have had meetings and exchanged many e-mails, but basically at a meeting on 16th April 2018 with Seona Douglas, Director of Adult Social Care, we can say that we are again starting from square one. The Director has promised us her personal attention to the issue now but we also know that there are many issues around the policy and the Care Act, from which it springs, that will need the attention of our local Councillors and of national government.
We are joined in this work by our partner organisations, Communicare and Age UK Berkshire, and we will keep all our websites up to date with the latest news as it comes through. Meanwhile, we have taken legal advice using over a dozen cases which have gone forward to a legal firm who are currently assessing these cases.
But, we are where we are, and as RBC continue to implement their policy we want to help people to understand as much as possible about the financial assessment process and how you can ensure that you don’t end up paying more than you need to, and where you can go for advice and support. On this webpage you will find information about:
If you are going through the financial assessment process for the first time (or you want a reminder), the following three documents will help you understand more about how the Council will assess you to see if you should contribute towards the cost of your social care.
The first document will give you RBC’s information about what you need to know about the charging framework if you receive care in the home or when you are out and about in the community. It doesn’t cover care provided in a residential care home. It should also be noted that the guidance gives information about all types of care situations, some of which may not apply to you. It includes the disabled and the elderly, both single people, couples and parents, so much of it may not actually refer to your particular case. It also doesn’t give any independent sources of advice or support, other than financial organisations. So you will need to see the list of organisations at the foot of this page if you want extra help to navigate the whole process.
The second document is Reading Mencap's own guidance about claiming Disability Related Expenses (DRE), what they are and with many examples of what you need to look for. Claiming your DRE is the single most important issue that you need to get right when being charged for care. So, this is why we’ve written separate, specific guidance on just this one issue. Many people will find that if this is done thoroughly then they are then no longer eligible to be charged or they are subject to a much reduced charge.
The third document shows you the Council’s own guide amounts for claiming DRE, which you need to use with caution. This is because it contains some information about which we are currently in dispute with the Council, namely the Council’s setting of a maximum figure that can be claimed for certain items such as cleaning or hair washing etc. You can access these documents by clicking on the links above.
Appealing against the local authority’s decision
You have the right to appeal against the local authority’s decision if you are not happy with the amount of contribution you have been asked to pay. Local authorities cannot cease funding your care package while you are disputing the charges you are expected to pay.
The Council’s Financial Assessment Team are the first point of contact for queries on the financial assessment process. Their contact details are as follows:
Financial Assessments and Benefits (FAB) Team:
Tel: 0118 937 3724
Secure webform: www.reading.gov.uk/contactfab
If you are still not satisfied contact the Complaints Officer as follows ...
Customer Relations Team
Tel: 0118 937 2905
Who else can help?
You can also contact your local voluntary organisation who are there to help. One of us will be able to help, especially if you want independent information, advice, support or advocacy ...
Reading Mencap, Family Support Service, including casework and home visiting
21 Alexandra Road, Reading RG1 5PE.
Tel: 0118 9663518
Monday to Friday 9.30am to 1.30pm and for drop-in
Communicare, Information & Advice Service including home visiting
233 Kings Road, Reading, RG1 4LS
Tel: 0118 926 3941
Opening & Drop-in times: Mon: 10am – 3pm, Tues: 10am – 4pm, Wed: 10am – 3pm
Thurs: 10am – 4pm, Fri: 10am – 1pm
Age UK Berkshire, Information & Advice Service
Huntley House, 119 London Street, Reading, Berkshire, RG1 4QA
Tel: 0118 959 4242
Drop-in between 9:30am and 1:30pm Monday to Thursday.
Opening Times: 9am - 4.30pm Monday to Friday