A coalition of Scottish disability charities is calling for an end to council care charges that they say are forcing disabled into poverty
Council charges for social care for disabled and elderly people in their homes should be abolished according to a new campaign.
A coalition of 16 disability charities under the banner Scotland Against the Care Tax (SACT) is calling for an end to charges for support for activities such as cleaning and shopping, which it claims are forcing disabled Scots into poverty.
The group says the charges, which have increased on average 12% in the last three years, amount to a tax on disabled and elderly people, who rely on social care to live full lives.
In a petition to the Scottish Parliament, SACT has highlighted inconsistencies in the way charges are levied and the high cost to councils of collecting them.
In Scotland elderly people are entitled to free personal care, which includes helping them with food and washing, but they are charged for additional support.
The care tax is being used to maintain the poverty and dependency of disabled and elderly people in the community - Jim Elder Woodward
SACT is made up of a range of disability organisations including the Learning Disability Alliance Scotland, Independent Living in Scotland, Capability Scotland and the Coalition of Care and Support Providers in Scotland.
The petition states: “Our petition starts from the premise that social care in any form is an equality and human rights issue. It is an essential part of the infrastructure of a fair and just society which respects, upholds and guarantees the equality and human rights of its citizens.
“A society which pursues a policy of charging those who are entitled to use nonresidential care services does not do this. Instead care charging uncompromisingly demands that they pay more than any able bodied person to achieve the same basic human rights.
“In some instances it can lead to a disabled individual deciding to forego much needed care and support, a decision which will entail significant risk of harm or further deterioration of an illness or condition.”
The number of people affected by care charging has risen over the last five years to 30,900 disabled people, according to the charities.
The petition highlights a postcode lottery in charges, with different councils applying different criteria for eligibility for social care support.
For example, if someone living in Falkirk moves over the Kincardine Bridge to Alloa, they would pay twice as much. But if they move to Fife, just a few miles away, they would pay nothing at all/.
Although Scottish Government figures show an average increase in charges by 12% over the last three years, some councils have increased their charges considerably more. Last year the Audit Commission found that charges for a single hour of home care varied between £8.56 per hour and £23.70 in different areas.
Jim Elder Woodward, chair of the Scottish Independent Living Coalition, said: “This care tax can mean a weekly choice for the taxpayer between paying for care or paying for food.
“Not only are care taxes going up, but the criteria for care are narrowing to such an extent that only those in dire need are eligible. Many who, with such help, could get a job or train for a career, now cannot because they do not meet such a narrow criteria.
“Therefore, the care tax is being used to maintain the poverty and dependency of disabled and elderly people in the community, and to deny them their right to participate theirin as equal citizens.”
The Scottish Parliament petitions committee will consider the SACT peition on Tuesday 17 February.