Shameful Attack on Disabled People

Author: Brian Collinge

People receiving care services from English local authorities have to pay for those services. How much they pay depends on their income and an assessment carried out by the providing local authority. The rules for the assessment and how much can be charged are set out in the Care and Support (Charging and Assessment of Resources) Regulations 2014

One important part of these regulations is something known as the Minimum Income Guarantee. For people living in the community, the Minimum Income Guarantee specifies the minimum disposable income which, after meeting their housing costs and any specific disability expenses, those receiving care must be left with. Local authorities cannot take more, in charges, than this minimum income guarantee. They do however have discretion to leave those receiving care services, more disposable income than this minimum

The Government reviews each year the various specified amounts within the 2014 Regulations and issues a circular to local authorities setting out the amounts for that year. 

This years circular is circular LAC(DHSC)(2019). Within it, the amount of the weekly minimum income guarantee for a single person with severe disabilities who is over 25 but under the pension credit age is calculated as follows:

Basic allowance £91.40
Disability premium £40.35
Enhanced disability premium £19.70
TOTAL: £151.45

So where is the shame in this and why does the circular amount to a financial attack on the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in our society? To find a partial answer to this question, one has to look at the equivalent circular for the year commencing April 2015. 

The circular for that year calculated the minimum weekly income guarantee for the same severely disabled single person as follows:

Basic Allowance £91.40
Disability premium £40.35
Enhanced disability premium £19.70
TOTAL: £151.45

Yes, that is right. There has been no increase in the minimum income guarantee since 2015. If the specified amounts had been increased in line with the retail price index, the minimum income Guarantee applicable from April 2019 would have been £167.94. If the consumer price index is used as the inflation calculator rather than the RPI, the figure would have been £162.61.

In other words, the failure of the Government to increase the minimum income guarantee, means that severely disables people are having to pay between £11-16 more per week for the care that they receive. This amounts to between £572-832 a year depending on which inflator is used.

This is however is only part of the evidence showing how our most disadvantaged are suffering under the social care charging system. A further factor which has increased their financial burden, is the change in policy which most local authorities have had little option but to adopt as a response to the enormous Government cuts that have been made in their grant income. As noted in the opening paragraph, in assessing how much to charge, local authorities have discretion to leave those receiving care with more disposable income than the minimum income guarantee. In better days, authorities tended to leave an amount of disposable income equal to the minimum income guarantee plus 25%. By 2014 however, a lot of authorities allowed a margin of only 15% plus the minimum income guarantee rather than the former 25%. In recent years and in the light of the cuts in grant income available to them, most authorities now only allow the minimum income guarantee. This means that if a person with severe disabilities now has to pay an additional weekly amount of between £13 to £14 a week compared to the amount thy had to pay if their local authority had exercised a 15% discretion.

So the effects of failing to adjust for inflation together with local authorities now taking 100% of disposable income means that the most vulnerable disabled and disadvantaged needing care in the community are now having to pay minimum weekly increase of around £25 per week or £1300 a year. This is no small sum when you are too disabled to work and your only income is benefits.

But this is not the end of the shameful story of how the most vulnerable in society who need social care are being affected by changes to charging policy. The various specified sums used in the regulations to calculate the minimum income guarantee were derived from amounts used in calculating income support but with an enhancement of 25%. Now, income support no longer exists. It has been replaced by new benefits and different enhancements have been introduced especially around people with disabilities. The Government has appropriately sought to take credit for singling out people with long term disability for extra financial support through the disability enhancement it has introduced. What it has not done however, is reflect these enhancements in the way the minimum income guarantee is calculated 

The relevant weekly disability enhancement introduced by Government are contained within the Employment and Support Allowance benefit and are currently as follows:

Extra money for being severely disabled £65.85
Extra money because of the Disability Income Guarantee £16.80
Extra money for people in the Support Group £38.55
TOTAL: £121.20

This total can be compared to the total disability enhancement within the current minimum income guarantee of £60.05 (i.e. £40.35 + £19.75). If these enhancement had been included within the Minimum Income Guarantee, the disposable income of people living in the community and receiving these benefits would have been substantially higher. Unfortunately it is not. The great majority of such people will, simply to survive, need and be receiving substantial social care support. But because these enhancement have not been built into the Minimum Income Guarantee then the difference between the disability allowance in the Minimum Income Guarantee and the newer enhancements within the ESA benefit will be wholly swallowed up by local authorities when people using social care are annually reassessed.

Perhaps the most shameful aspect of this sad story of how charging policy for social care is affecting our most vulnerable is the Government's claim that the changes it has made to the benefits system will benefit disabled people. Unless the disability enhancements within ESA are incorporated into the calculation of the Minimum Income Guarantee then they certainly will not.

The publisher is the Centre for Welfare Reform.

Shameful Attack on Disabled People © Brian Collinge 2019.

All Rights Reserved. No part of this paper may be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher except for the quotation of brief passages in reviews.

Article | 23.05.19

politics, social care, social justice, tax and benefits, England, Article

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