Disabled Scots ‘pay same’ despite free personal care

Complex social care charging rules could see many people with disabilities seeing no benefit from Frank’s Law, campaigners claim

Tuesday 14th May 2019

Many disabled people could still end up paying the same amount for their care despite the new policy of extending free personal care to the under-65s, a group of campaigners has claimed.

Under the new regime, introduced at the beginning of April this year, non-personal care, including help with household tasks such as cleaning or laundry and services outside the home, such as day-care centres or help shopping, must still be paid for.

Campaigners say that, due to the way charges are calculated and a cap on the amount those on a lower income have to pay, many people with disabilities aged under 65 could see no reduction.

The claim is being made by Scotland Against the Care Tax (SACT), which believes the distinction between personal and non-personal care is artificial and means disabled people have to pay unfair charges for essential care needed to live their lives.

In a letter to the Scottish Parliament’s Petitions Committee, which is investigating the issue, the campaign says:

‘As a result, we can say that only 33% of disabled people under 65, just under 6,000,will benefit from the Scottish Government’s extension of Free Personal Care…It would appear that since [the policy was announced in 2017], the numbers that will be helped have fallen dramatically while the costs of the programme have risen equally dramatically.’

When it the policy was announced in September 2017, then-health secretary Shona Robison claimed ‘at least 9000’ would benefit from extending free personal care to those aged under 65.

Over 65s have benefitted from free personal care since 2002, when it was introduced by the Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition.

After extensive campaigning by Amanda Kopel, whose husband and former Dundee United footballer, Frank, was diagnosed with early onset dementia aged 59, the policy was extended to cover under 65s.

Yet SACT argues it’s not clear whether most disabled people will be better off under the new approach because of the existing cap on the amount someone a disabled person on a lower income has to pay – worked out by councils based on an assessment of earnings, benefits and savings.

For many, the cost of non-personal care hours is still above the cap – so they will end up paying the same amount.

SACT says that while Scots who receive only personal care will be ‘big winners’, those receiving non-personal care only will see ‘no change’ from the new initiative.

And people who receive a mix of both – estimated to be just under 4,500 people across the country – will still have to pay for care and assistance that is classed as non-personal.

SACT says: ‘As a result, we fear the Scottish Government may be introducing its new policy of Free Personal Care for under 65s without fully understanding its effects.’

The group’s chair, Jeff Adamson, who lives with a disability, stands as an example.

Under the old rules Jeff was assessed as being able to afford a £170 contribution towards the cost of the 80 hours of care he needs every week.

Under the new policy, even though 64 hours are classed as personal and are now free, the cost to the council of providing the remaining 16 hours of non-personal care is still higher than £170.

As a result, Jeff was told his weekly care charge 'will not change.'

Now SACT is encouraging people with similar experiences to get in touch and share their stories.

The group plans to publish a report setting out the effects of the new policy.

MSPs on the committee will now have the option of asking the Health Secretary, Jeane Freeman, to respond to the claims.