The government has eased concerns that cost-of-living support for hundreds of thousands of disabled people in England announced by the Treasury last month – which should be worth hundreds of pounds – could have been snatched back by local authorities.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced payments of £650 for those on means-tested benefits, and another £150 for recipients of disability benefits, to help ease the cost-of-living crisis.
But the Disability Poverty Campaign Group (DPCG) had raised concerns that existing care charge rules could mean that many local authorities would snatch all the cost-of-living payments handed out by the government.
This is because many disabled people who receive social care in their own homes from their local council must make a financial contribution.
The charge is decided by the council, which has to leave the person with a minimum amount of money, known as the minimum income guarantee (MIG).
The basic MIG for a single working-age adult is currently £94.15 per week*, or £74.60 for those between 18 and 25, and any income above that rate can be taken back by the council to contribute to their social care package.
DPCG – which is led by the disabled people’s organisations Cheshire Disabled People’s Panel, Disability Rights UK, Inclusion Barnet, and Inclusion London – says an increasing number of councils are keeping all of a service-user’s income above the MIG.
They feared that this could mean that all £800 of the cost-of-living support provided by the government could be taken by the local authority in charges.
DPCG feared that the £400 payment to help with fuel costs could also be taken by some local authorities.
But the Department of Health and Social Care has told Disability News Service this week that it is currently undertaking work to determine the link between the new cost-of-living payments and financial assessments for care costs.
Because the new financial support is provided through one-off payments, DHSC believes this will not be considered as regular income and so will not affect the MIG.
A DPCG spokesperson said: “We welcome the news that the one-off cost-of-living payments announced by the chancellor in May will not be considered in the means test for care charging.
“This means disabled people receiving care will be able to keep the cost-of-living payments, just like everyone else in the country.
“However, this question should never have arisen.
“It is fundamentally unfair that disabled people systematically have their income reduced to a minimum level imposed by the care charging system.
“Fundamental reform of care is needed to tackle the appallingly high levels of poverty in the disabled community.”
Although the MIG rose this April for the first time since 2015, DPCG said the increase was far smaller than the rate of inflation and it eventually wants to see rises that help make up for the years it had previously been kept at the same level.
*The MIG is increased if the disabled person receives various benefits or premiums, such as the enhanced disability premium, or because they are in the support group of employment and support allowance, or its universal credit equivalent
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