Time for Government to end the social care charging scandal

Social Care is unfair and a post code lottery. It is time for FREE home care.

Scrap social care charging film

A powerful film explaining why social care charges are unjust and unfair and undermine Disabled people’s choice and control and right to independent living.

Why this is important

Social Care is unfair and a post code lottery. It is time for FREE home care. Thousands of disabled and older people throughout the Covid pandemic have experienced social care cuts and increases in care charging. Families and carers are struggling to make ends meet and pay the week’s shopping bill. Others are being pushed into debt.

We are, therefore, calling on the government to abolish social care charging and introduce free home care.  In the interim, we are urging the government to ensure Disabled and older people are not forced to pay for social care out of their benefits.

Care Act 204 and Charging regulations

Although the Care Act 2014 and the Charging regulations set out minimum standards, which should, in theory, ensure people are not asked to pay more than they can afford, in reality, those minimum standards are inadequate. Even though the Government recognises the importance of continuing a year-on-year rise specifically for disability benefits, the Minimum Income Guarantee – the amount that people should be left with aftercare charging to cover bills, food and basic wellbeing costs – has not risen since 2015.

This means that Disabled and older people who rely on social care support have not benefited from that increase in benefit rates, as the benefits increase goes in care charges to the Council funding the care and support. You can see the amounts the Government thinks people should live on in The DHSC Circular

Minimum Income Guarantee

The Minimum Income Guarantee was set up to ensure that disabled people can retain a certain income level to cover their living costs. However, the necessary amounts vary greatly. For example, most working-age Disabled People are expected to live on a basic rate of £91.40 per week, while people of Pension Credit age can keep back £189.00 to cover the same basic costs.

Most Disability benefits can be taken into account as income. Where this is the case, the Charging Regulations say that a Council must disregard disability benefit money that is being spent on essential disability-related goods or services that the Council is not providing.

However, people have to prove their extra disability costs through a very burdensome and bureaucratic process. This creates a system where benefits given by one government department get taken away by local authorities. Moreover, social care charges vary across English local authorities, making an unfair postcode lottery.

Impact of Covid pandemic

The pandemic has exacerbated this situation. Thousands of disabled and older people throughout the Covid pandemic have experienced social care cuts and increases in care charging. Families are struggling to make ends meet and pay the week’s shopping bill. In some cases, people must make an unenviable choice of heating the home or putting food on the table. Others are being pushed into debt.

This situation is only likely to get worse. A National Audit Office report in March 2021 found that 41% of councils with social care responsibility said they needed to make ‘substantial’ service savings to balance 2021-22 budgets, including by increasing charges. I am incredibly concerned that people with the lowest income will be forced to pay to close the gap in social care funding.

In the meantime, we are asking MPs to push the Treasury to significantly raise the levels of Minimum Income Guarantee as a matter of urgency, so that Disabled and older people, carers and families do not have to make a choice between food or heating and essential support they need to live a life.

BBC Radio 4, The Cost of Care

File on 4 investigates the new challenges of providing home care during the Covid-19 pandemic – with some recipients seeing their care costs increased while their hours are reduced. Exploring reports of financial assessments being neglected, and allegations that people’s basic needs are not being met, we ask if some of society’s most vulnerable are being made to shoulder the cost of local council funding gaps.

You can watch the programme here BBC Radio 4 – File on 4, The Cost of Care

BBC Radio 4, You and Yours

This episode examines social care charging and includes an  interview with Hammersmith and Fulham Council which is the only council in the country to provide free comprehensive home care. You can listen to the programme here https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000wsxr