GLC legal update: social care charges in Glasgow

The Court of Session issued its Opinion in BB v. Glasgow City Council on 19 April 2024. The full judgment of the Court is available here (opens in a new tab as a PDF).

This was a challenge to Glasgow City Council’s (GCC) decision last March to increase social care charges by 50% for many service users from April 2023.

In BB, Lord Braid held that the council had failed to undertake an adequate equality impact assessment (EQIA) under the 2010 Equality Act and the 2012 regulations made thereunder.

However, the court ruled that the charging policy was not of itself discriminatory against service users by reason of disability for a number of reasons set out in the full judgment here. It pursued a legitimate and objective aim that included the need to balance GCC’s budget.

Significantly, the policy was found to have effective safeguards to ensure that a person was not charged more than was reasonably practicable for them pay – which is the key legal test from section 87 of the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968.

The case of BB was first raised last November and has clearly prompted important changes to GCC’s 2024/25 charging policy, signed off last month.

New paragraphs 7.1.2 to 7.1.4 give people the right to apply for a financial hardship waiver at anytime by contacting their care manager (see below for the 2024/25 charging policy).

New paragraph 4.1 requires the financial assessment process to include a referral to GCC’s welfare rights team to ensure correct benefits have been applied for – a very positive change (see above).

Additionally, new paragraph 10.5 requires extra living costs because of a disability – known as “disability living expenditure” (DRE) – to be considered as part of the annual financial assessment – and a reassessment can be requested at any time (see above).

For the first time, we now have a 50-page EQIA, published last month, which provides essential insights into the operation of the charging policy and its impact. The new March 2024 EQIA is below.

From GCC’s analysis of a sample of service users, we know that the inclusion of DRE as part of the annual financial assessment is making a difference.

For those with DRE, 75% received a reduction in charges between £16.52 and £35.89 per week. This affects around 2,000 people in Glasgow.

Just before the hearing in BB, GCC agreed to apply DRE which reduced the increase in charges from 50% to 6% per week – effectively a rise of £4 per week.

It’s important to appreciate that much of the progressive changes to GCC’s charging policy in 2023/24 came about from GLC’s case of McCue v. GCC before the UK Supreme Court (opens in a new tab).

Originally, GCC’s policy on DRE only said: “Consideration will be given to representations to take into account other specific costs of living e.g. in relation to disability related expenditure.” (at para 10.2.4, opens in a new tab).

Many people didn’t know how to apply for DRE or what could be included as there was no GCC guidance. Last year, new paragraphs 10.1 to 10.3 strengthened the charging policy for those with extra living costs arising from disabilities (see the 2023/24 charging policy below).

The cost of most social care services is rising by another 5% from April 2024. The key message for those with charges is if you’re in financial hardship because of these costs request a financial reassessment.

Ideally, obtain a financial statement from an approved money adviser to evidence financial hardship based upon verified, reasonable and necessary expenditure.

Separately, make sure all DRE is taken into consideration as per GCC’s revised charging policy.

If you need free legal advice and representation in Glasgow, contact your local community law centre. Free money advice can be obtained from independent money advice agencies and CABx.

A version of this article first appeared in the Glasgow Times here (opens in a new tab).

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