Care changes are complicated and need to be properly understood

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Ian Hood, of Scotland Against the Care Tax, examines the development of free personal care for under-65s

7th March 2018 by Gareth Jones 0 Comments

Rachel (47) has MS and needs regular help and support with her personal care. She receives support for 10 hours per week for things such as getting out of bed, showering and dressing as well as for other social care (8 hours per week) for help with tasks such as shopping and house maintenance.   

Rachel pays the council £40 a week for this service, money that she cannot really afford. She is hoping that next year - when the Scottish Government extends Free Personal Care to those under 65 - to be much better off.  

Following a long struggle by Frank’s Law campaigner, Amanda Kopel and the broad based Scotland Against the Care Tax, the Scottish Government will make the change from April 2019. They hope tens of thousands of people with long term conditions requiring social care will be better off as a result of the change. 

Ian Hood

Ian Hood

It’s a straightforward plan. From April next year, councils will begin a reassessment of all current social care clients to break down hours of support (or individual budgets) in to personal care and other social care. All personal care hours will be zero rated. Other social care will still be subject to charging at local rates from £10 to £20 per hour. 

Care charges are complicated and we don’t think the Scottish Government realises this. Recently we designed a Personal Care Calculator. This used information on local charging policies to estimate what an individual’s social care charges are now and what would change in the Scottish Government’s plans.    

Hundreds of disabled people used it. But the results for people were disappointing. The policy made no difference to most people. Rachel was one of those who wasn’t any better off. With eight hours of other social care support, her council would still charge her £40 a week even if she got the 10 hours of personal care free. 

The few who were better off were those with:

- a high level of savings
- a high income from paid employment
- other social care hours of less than four a week

Most people under 65 with social care needs have complicated patterns of care needing lots of other help. Whether it is help with household tasks, support to break patterns of loneliness, or just getting to places in the community, help with these will still be chargeable. 

There is a second problem. The Scottish Government will give millions of pounds to councils for this new policy. But an FOI by SACT suggests that most money will just go straight into the coffers of local authorities. 

In 2016-17, the Scottish Government gave £6 million to local authorities to increase the income disregards used in social care charges on disabled people. SACT asked councils if they had reduced their income from charges by the £6 million. Instead most had raised income from raising the charges not covered by the government’s plans. This was confirmed In the Local Government Finance Statistics published last week. Instead of 2016-17 income from service users falling by £6 million there was a rise of £1.67 million. An additional £7.67 million of social care charges was raised on disabled people. Not at all what was planned! 

Let’s not make this mistake twice. There is an easy way to make sure disabled benefit in the future. Rather than zero rating personal care hours, everyone would be given a rebate on their personal care hours set against their current charges. The rebate means that everyone with personal care will pay less and councils will be reimbursed by the government to the value of the rebate. No one loses out or is worse off. Rachel’s personal care rebate would come off her £40 per week leaving her with an overall nil charge.   

With this proposal the councils still get the additional resources from the government to implement the policy. The Scottish Government gets to keep its promise to help thousands of disabled people.   And most importantly, thousands of social care users have more money to live a better life.


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