SCOTLAND’S Supreme Court gave its judgment last Friday in a challenge to Glasgow City Council’s decision last April to increase social care charges by 50% for many service users.

In the case of BB v. Glasgow City Council, Lord Braid held that the council had failed to undertake an adequate equality impact assessment (EQIA) under the 2010 Equality Act and the 2012 regulations made thereunder.

However, the court ruled that the charging policy was not of itself discriminatory against service users by reason of disability for a number of reasons. It pursued a legitimate and objective aim that included the need to balance GCC’s budget.

Significantly, the policy was found to have effective safeguards to ensure a person was not charged more than was reasonably practicable for them pay – which is the key legal test.

The case of BB was raised last November and has clearly prompted important changes to GCC’s 2024/25 charging policy, signed off last month.

New paragraphs 7.1.2 to 7.1.4 give people the right to apply for a financial hardship waiver at anytime by contacting their care manager.

New paragraph 4.1 requires the financial assessment process to include a referral to GCC’s welfare rights team to ensure correct benefits have been applied for – a very positive change.

Additionally, new paragraph 10.5 requires extra living costs because of a disability – known as “disability living expenditure” (DRE) – to be considered as part of the annual financial assessment – and a reassessment can be requested at any time.

For the first time, we now have a 50-page EQIA, published last month, which provides essential insights into the operation of the charging policy and its impact.

From a GCC analysis of a sample of service users, we know that the inclusion of DRE as part of the annual financial assessment is making a difference.

For those with DRE, 75% received a reduction in charges between £16.52 and £35.89 per week. This affects around 2000 people in Glasgow.

The case of BB was conducted by solicitors from Govan Law Centre (GLC) with myself appearing for the petitioner. Just before the hearing in BB, GCC agreed to apply DRE which reduced the increase in charges from 50% to 6% per week.

But it’s important to appreciate that much of the progressive changes to GCC’s charging policy in 2023/24 came about from GLC’s case of McCue v. GCC before the UK Supreme Court.

Originally, GCC’s policy on DRE only said: “Consideration will be given to representations to take into account other specific costs of living e.g. in relation to disability related expenditure.”

Many people didn’t know how to apply for DRE or what could be included as there was no guidance.

Last year, new paragraphs 10.1 to 10.3 strengthened the policy for those with extra living costs arising from disabilities.

The cost of most social care services is rising by another 5% this month. The key message for those with charges is if you’re in financial hardship because of these costs request a financial reassessment.

Ideally, obtain a financial statement from an approved money adviser to evidence financial hardship based upon verified, reasonable and necessary expenditure.

Separately, make sure all DRE is taken into consideration as per GCC’s revised charging policy.

If you need free legal advice and representation in Glasgow, contact your local community law centre. Free money advice can be obtained from independent money advice agencies and CABx.