ILG Community Event – Disability Related Expenses & Financial Assessments
Thurs 18th May 2023
The theme of our third event was Disability Related Expenses (DRE) and financial assessments. We were joined by Inclusion London who showed us their DRE online calculator and we heard from Don O’Neal about his campaign in regards to the guide used by many council’s for DRE.
We also had a panel discussion with Vici Richardson from Disability North, Jon Abrams from Inclusion London, Ellen Kennedy from Real, Brett Bignall and Don O’Neal.
If you attended the meeting or have watched the video link above and would like to give feedback, please do so here.
Disability Related Expenditure (DRE) and Charging
DRE – Disability Related Expenditure is additional money you may need to spend due to your disability or ill-health.
MIG – Minimum Income Guarantee ensures that you keep a level of income which covers your living costs. This amount is set by the Department of Health and is reviewed annually.
Capital Limits – The upper capital limit sets out at what point a person is entitled to means-tested access local authority support to meet their eligible needs. Only people with capital below the upper limit qualify for means-tested financial help to meet their care and support needs. This will be set by each country. In England, for example, this is currently this is set at £23,250.
Ombudsman – There are two types of ombudsman. Some cover the private sector. Others cover the public sector. They mainly look into complaints about government organisations and public services when you have exhausted other complaints processes.
Policies in different parts of the UK
Under the Health and Social Services and Social Security adjudication act, 1983, local authorities can only charge you what you can reasonably and practically afford. They must also not have a charging policy that discourages work. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how high the charge is, they cannot remove care if you are unable to pay. However unable is not the same as unwilling.
The upper saving threshold is £24,000. If the care recipient has savings over this level, the maximum they would be required to pay towards the cost of their care is £100 a week.
The same is true of anyone with savings under that threshold.
Earnings are never taken into account, but income is.
Out of the 32 local Authorities in Scotland there are few who do not charge for care. Axe the care tax has been a huge campaign in Scotland to abolish the care tax for everyone.
Frank’s Law was implemented in Scotland to allow free personal care for people under 65, which was already the case for over 65s.
Support plans identify a proportional split and anything not on the Personal Care list is chargeable. The 32 Local Authorities all have their own interpretation of this.
Domiciliary care services including direct payments are usually not subject to means-tested financial charging by HSCT in Northern Ireland.
When the ILF closed to new recipients in Northern Ireland in 2015 those recipients already receiving ILF transitioned to ILF Scotland. ILF recipients in Northern Ireland do have to make a financial contribution towards their ILF award which has recently been capped for all recipients at £43 per week
Inclusion London Resources
Campaign infomation: Scrap social care charging – Inclusion London
Disability Related Expenses FAQ
Q: Is a partner’s income also included in the financial assessment?
A: In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, a partner’s income is not taken into account. It does however vary in Scotland. Please check with your local authority, if you’re unsure.
Q: J is on benefits and gets charged. How does she get a transparent financial assessment?
A: When someone is deemed eligible to receive care, the local authority can carry out a financial assessment. It’s worth noting that in England and Wales, local authorities can only charge you what you can “reasonably and practically afford”, although you may need to evidence this. Earnings from work do not get taken into account in these areas.
Ask for a copy of the charging policy, a copy of the information that the council uses to decide allowances and a copy of the actual form they use for the financial assessment. Use Inclusion London’s chat bot to get examples of disability related expenses.
After the financial assessment, you should get a full breakdown of how they calculated the assessment, including a breakdown of DREs claimed. If you don’t get a full breakdown, ask for it. If you prefer, ask them to explain all the calculations in writing. Check that their breakdown matches the information that you gave and ask for an explanation if there are differences. You can challenge this if you do not agree.
Part of the financial assessment is the Minimum Income Guarantee (MIG) – this is what the council MUST leave you to live on. It is sometimes called the Statutory Allowance on the breakdown. Every year the government tells councils what figures to use each year in a “Local Authority Circular” document called- “Social care charging for local authorities”. You can find these documents here. Check the breakdown that the council gives you to make sure that they are allowing AT LEAST the minimum amounts stated in the charging document.
Q: D was asked to provide receipts for DRE. She gave 14 and all were disallowed. She was told she should have asked the NHS to pay for her stairlift but they don’t do this. Asked for her deposit on her mobility car and adaptations and this was disallowed as her choice. She needs these though – it’s not a choice. She is at stage 2 of an appeal. They only use the NAFAO list. What else can she do?
A: Unfortunately, local authorities are very “hit and miss” in this area. If you disagree with the complaints outcome, it can be taken to the ombudsman.
Q: C needs a formal cognitive assessment as an adult as she has suspected nonverbal learning disorder. She is struggling to get an NHS assessment. Could this be a DRE?
A: This would only be seen as disability-related expenditure if the assessment has to be paid for by the family.
Q: If you are successful in getting a NIL contribution are the LA duty bound to put the difference in?
A. This question could have two meanings, so both have been provided.
- Does the Council has to make up the shortfall in the Direct Payment now that I have a nil contribution? The answer would be Yes. If the total DP is, for example, £50 and the person had previously been assessed to pay, for example, £20, the council would only be paying in £30. If the person was then successful so they had £0 to contribute, the council would have to put an extra £20 into the DP, to make the full £50.
- Now I have a NIL contribution, does the council have to pay me back what I put in ( e.g. because there was a delay in telling me the outcome of the financial assessment and I kept paying in)? This might also be a yes. The council should back date the shortfall to the date of the assessment. If the person was up to date with the contributions to that point, and continued paying after the financial assessment took place, the person should be able to take their overpaid contribution back once the council have paid the shortfall in. (It is important for the person to say they are doing this, as sometimes councils can be fussy if they see people transferring funds out of the DP account and back into their own account.
Q: C has an assistance dog who mitigates her disability thus saving having to employ another PA. Her council refused support and told her to use PIP for him – then they took her PIP. Other councils cover this, why isn’t there a universal DRE for all councils?
A: IF a local authority is not taking disability-related expenditure into account, the service user should consider making a formal complaint. Clearly an assistance dog is an integral part of someone’s support, and the associated costs should be taken into account. If the complaint is unsuccessful, escalate it using the complaints process and then refer to the ombudsman who can look at it independently. It could also be argued that the local authority’s policies are a clear breach of the Equality Act 2010, so not only is the policy unfair, but probably unlawful.
Q: How come we have to spend the money then claim back? Can’t always do this.
A: Unfortunately, this is how the system works. Just like expenses at work, you have to spend before you get reimbursed.
Q: Why is income disregarded?
A: Income is not disregarded. Earnings are disregarded because those who are able to earn already pay tax on this income and campaigned against charging. The law ever since it has been written in 1983 means that no charging must be a disincentive to work. Therefore, earnings are not taken into account.
Q: Is there a Welsh campaign group re. DRE?
A: We are not aware of a group campaigning on this issue. However please contact Kat Watkins at Disability Wales who will know more.
Q: How long does the process take? Is there a legal timeframe to get answers?
A: Timescales are set by the social services Inspectorate. They must be publicly available from each local authority.
Q: A’s daughter works but is in supported housing, is she able to claim DRE?
A: Anyone who is eligible for a community care service, receives disability benefits and is required to pay a charge, can offset their disability related expenditure.
Q: J is diabetic and uses insulin kept in fridge, it’s now faulty, can the cost of a new fridge be DRE?
A: A local authority probably would argue that someone would have a fridge anyway, regardless of their condition, but it’s worth a try.