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Charging for social care campaign

Mike Jones is a retired Finance Director from the private sector and is the Appointee for his sister, Julie (not her real name), who lives in shared accommodation with three other women who also have special needs. The property is owned by a Registered Social Landlord and the local authority arrange 24/7 care and support.

Julie contributes to her share of the care costs based on a local authority financial assessment each year. The calculation treats her benefits as her income (she has no other income or capital) and deducts two allowances for living costs and disability-related expenses. The local authority then claims 90% of the balance as her contribution to the shared care costs and Julie is left with the remaining 10% for her own personal needs.

In 2019, the 10% that Julie was allowed to keep for her personal use was £1.14 per week. That was supposed to provide her with the means to live an inclusive lifestyle within the community.

When Mike realised how little Julie had left each week for personal expenses, such as a small birthday gift for a family member, he worked hard to secure an increase in her benefits, but the local authority claimed 90% of the increase as a further contribution to her/their care costs.

In 2020 Julie is now left with £10.63 per week for her personal needs, which is better for her but leaves Mike annoyed that the local authority took the lion’s share of the improvement in her benefits.

It was even more annoying when Mike realised that people in residential care (as opposed to living in the community) have a safeguard of £24.90 per week for personal needs called the Personal Expense Allowance as per LAC (DHSC) (2020)1, which local authorities cannot touch.

Mike believes this is unfair and discriminates against people in non-residential care, despite a local authority commitment to give those people a more inclusive and fulfilling life within the community. He believes the discrimination may also be unlawful.

Mike has started a campaign using Twitter (@extend_the_PEA) to try and get government to extend the safeguard of the Personal Expense Allowance to non-residential care and/or to encourage local authorities to be more generous in the application of the Minimum Income Guarantee in their financial assessments, as permitted by the LAC.

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As Mike Jones’s campaign demonstrates, social care charging reduces many disabled people trying to live in the community, to a state of penury and yet – for reasons I cannot understand – it is a topic that gets very little coverage.

Local authorities do not have to charge and the statutory guidance (para 8.2) states that charges must be ‘reasonably practicable’.  If a local authority decides to impose charges, then it must satisfy itself in an individual case that it is ‘reasonably practicable’ for the person to pay it.  This must take into account all the personal circumstances of the individual and also provide a rational reason for imposing the charge (if the council decides so to do).

There is however a wider point of principle – namely that charges of the kind described by Mike Jones severely undermine the rights of disabled people to live independent lives (contrary to Article 19 UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)) and are discriminatory – in that they can impose more severe charges on those living in the community than those in an institutional setting.  This difference in treatment is not only irrational – it may also contravene Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights in combination with Article 8.

There is also an argument that it amounts to unlawful discrimination contrary to the Equality Act 2010.  Many disabled people who receive a Disability Living Allowance (DLA) / Personal Independence Payment (PIP) do not get local authority support because their needs are not sufficiently severe to meet the social care eligibility criteria.  In such cases they keep all their DLA/ PIP income.  However if their impairment becomes more substantial they may then become eligible for local authority support – at which point they lose much of their DLA /PIP in charges.  This is seriously regressive and it is difficult to see how a state (such as the UK) can both ratify the CRPD and allow local authorities to impose such charges.

It is unclear if any of these issues will be considered in the pending judicial review concerning charges – click here for details.

For a general note on challenging local authority charges – click here.