Steve is in his late sixties. He has a learning disability and suffers from mental health problems. He has spent most of his life in psychiatric institutions. During the decades he spent detained on locked wards he suffered both physical and sexual abuse.
In the last 15 years his life has improved dramatically. He now lives in his own flat but needs support workers to be with him at all times.
He is supported by a small voluntary sector organisation. The funding for this is provided by Edinburgh Council. In the last few years this funding has been cut by 25%. Budgets have been slashed, offices closed and his support workers’ wages have fallen by over £2000 in the last 8 years. The organisation now struggles to recruit new staff to provide the service on which he depends.
Last year Edinburgh Council decided to raise some extra cash by making people like Steve pay for the service they receive.
Steve lives on pension credit and disability benefits and just about makes ends meet.
A few months ago he received a bill from the Council asking him to pay £230 per month towards the cost of his care.
Steve has no savings and no income other than his benefits.
For most of his life Steve was never allowed access to his own money. It was locked away and spent on his behalf by nurses and staff. In the last few years he has worked hard at coping with handling his own cash and now gets given a daily budget to spend how he chooses.
It is testament to how far he has come that he is able to manage this without becoming overcome with anxiety. Professionals involved in his care have previously said that he would never be able to reach this level of independence. Steve has proved them wrong.
How do you tell Steve that he now has to pay £230 per month for his own care?
“Steve, you’ve not done anything wrong but that money that you get every day – yes – the money you struggled to get for 50 years – you can’t afford it any more. In fact, you see this conversation we’re having right now? You’ll be billed for it at the end of the month”.
I’m guessing that if you had to pay £230 per month it would have a serious effect on your quality of life. And the chances are that you live on more than pension credit.
And why don’t you have to pay £230 per month when Steve does? The answer to that is simple; Steve has a disability.
Do you have to pay to get up in the morning? Do you have to pay to walk to the shops? Do you have to pay to make your bed?
Steve needs support to do these things because he has a disability. It seems that the City of Edinburgh Council believe that this should come with financial penalties.
Steve’s support workers are appealing the Council’s decision to charge him for his service but have had no response. In the meantime they are desperately trying to figure out what things he can go without to pay the monthly bill.
In its budget for 2015/16 the City of Edinburgh Council plans to increase charges for care services from £13.50 to £15.50 per hour.
Council tax for our wealthiest residents will not be increased.