IN April this year, the Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership (GCHSCP) hiked-up the charges that people must pay for non-residential social care – things like non-personal home care and adult day care centres.

The increase was profound. A rise of 50% in how the council calculates a person’s disposable income for charges. The way the calculation is formulated is complicated but in a nutshell there’s a minimum income threshold you’re allowed to live on – from April this year that’s £156 per week.

It used to be that only half of income above the minimum income threshold could be taken as a charge, but from April the GCHSCP increased its so-called “taper” to three-quarters of a person’s disposable income.

Many people who rely on social care are disabled with social security benefits as their only source of income. How does the GCHSCP justify a 50% taper uplift when most social security benefits were only uprated in April by consumer price index inflation of 10.1%?

More disturbing is the realisation that GCHSCP’s revised policy doesn’t apply to people equally. If one interrogates the policy it’s apparent that it’s a reverse Robin Hood – the greatest increase in charges are taken from disabled people who require more care.

Consider two examples. The charging policy in Appendix A gives an illustration of a single person aged 55 in receipt of universal credit and a personal independence payment who needs two hours of home care each week.

Before the charging policy change, they paid charges of £39.74 per week and had a disposable income after the 50% taper of £43.60. From April, with a 75% taper, they can be charged up to £65.41 each week. But that person wouldn’t pay any more because the two hours care only costs £39.74.

To put it another way, the less need you have for social care the more the price hike won’t affect you. But if you’re a disabled person who needs around 15 hours of weekly care, you will pay disproportionately more from April.

My colleagues at Govan Law Centre have examples including where a person was paying £62.30 per week for social care but from April this year is now being charged £103.14. That is a massive 65% hike in charges – or an extra £163.36 taken from a person’s social security benefits every four weeks.

What consideration did the GCHSCP give to the impact its new charging policy would have on people with disabilities in Glasgow? Earlier this year 5,600 service users were invited to participate in a survey along with third sector organisations.

Only 118 responses were received, representing a 2% response rate.

The GCHSCP notes in its equality impact assessment (EIA) of 20 March 2023 that: “People with disabilities felt that the charging policy was unfair due to their higher cost of living. A change to the financial assessment in respect of disability-related expenditure (DRE) is proposed to assist in addressing these concerns”.

As the council are under 2010 Equality Act duties not to discriminate or negatively impact on the lives of disabled persons, the GCHSCP’s EIA recognised its proposals could adversely affect people with disabilities.

The EIA said the changes: “Could result in higher charges if disability related expenditure is not fully considered. Change to financial assessment to consider disability related expenditure from the outset”.

Here’s the big problem in Glasgow – and it’s no secret – there’s no formal application process to apply for DRE to be considered. DRE are the extra living costs that can arise from disabilities.

Unlike in England, there are no statutory rules governing how DRE should be treated which results in people with disabilities in Scotland being at a serious disadvantage to the rest of the UK.

At the end of June this year, I wrote to the Minister for Social Care, Marie Todd MSP, explaining how Scots were at a serious disadvantage and an interim solution would be for Scottish Ministers to use existing powers to issue formal directions and guidance on DRE.

Although the former First Minister promised in April 2021 to abolish social care charges if returned to power, an interim solution was needed now.

The response I received on July 26 was disappointing. Suggestions would be sent to the COSLA Charging Working Group for discussion – which while appreciated didn’t give any assurance for those needing help now.

A spokesperson told me: “The Scottish Government remains committed to the removal of non-residential social care support charges so that services are based on a person’s need and not their ability to pay”.

While it’s good to see this commitment restated, the reality is that many people with disabilities are now paying 65% more in social care charges from April this year. They can’t wait any longer – we need an interim solution now.