In April, Glasgow City Council (GCC) changed its social care charging policy, increasing the charges levied on disabled and non-disabled persons requiring non-residential social care services, such as home care.

Last week, a petition for judicial review was lodged at Scotland’s highest civil court, the Court of Session, challenging the lawfulness of the charging policy in relation to certain disabled service users under the 2010 Equality Act and Scots common law.

An initial 10.1% increase in weekly charges was implemented on April 6, 2023, when the UK government uprated various welfare benefits by the rate of inflation.

However, from April 24, the charges for disabled persons who were single, under 60 years of age and requiring 3.5 hours or more of social care per week were ­increased by a further 50%.

For this particular group of people with disabilities in Glasgow, this represented a 65% ­increase in relation to charges before April 10, 2023.

Most people affected rely exclusively on social security benefits as their only source of income. Many other service users of home care have had no or much lower increases on a pro-rata basis.

Why has one particular group of disabled persons ended up being charged disproportionately higher costs than anyone else in the city?

The answer may lie in a combination of factors; a lack of proper consultation with service users and a failure to appreciate that charging policy increases were not sophisticated enough to apply on an equal pro-rata basis.

For example, if you’re in the group of being single and under 60 years of age you receive a much lower minimum income threshold than for couples or single persons over 60 years of age. If you only need three or fewer hours of care each week you won’t notice any or much change in costs.

However, if you’re single, under 60 and have disabilities that require a more intensive level of home care support you’re exposed to the full 65% hike in weekly charges.

How can that be equitable when your income has only increased by 10%? How can that be equal treatment when you need to pay proportionately more than many other service users in different groups with lower needs?

GCC decided that it didn’t have to carry out a full equality impact assessment of its charging policy changes in March this year. That was an extraordinary decision for two main reasons.

First, proposing to hike care costs for some disabled people by 50% above inflation required careful thought as to its impact on health and wellbeing.

Second, the equality screening document produced in March this year confirmed that charging policy changes were based on a consultation with a tiny number of people. Over a three-week period in January and February the council invited 5600 service users to participate in a survey but only 118 responses were received; a 2% response rate.

Interestingly, the chosen sample group appears to be missing many service users.

Public Health Scotland’s social care statistics for 2020/21 confirm that 8665 people in the client group of “elderly/frail” received home care services in Glasgow; with 2605 people in the “physical/sensory disability” client group; and 2355 people classed as “other”. People can be in more than one group.

There is of course nothing to prevent GCC now undertaking a proper equality impact assessment on its charging policy and addressing the apparent injustice in its policy.