MSPs have exposed a postcode lottery for care charges in Scotland, with service users facing fees ranging from nothing to over £300 a month for similar levels of need.
The figures were obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the Scottish Parliament’s cross-party group on learning disability, which asked councils how much they would charge users in each of three scenarios.
They showed that in three councils – Falkirk, Fife and South Ayshire – a single parent with a learning disability receiving 21 hours of home care support per week would pay nothing. However, the same person would face a charge of £364 a month in West Lothian, £339 in Moray and £337 in Argyll and Bute.
Any charges are on top of users’ entitlement to free personal care.
The variations come despite the publication in May of guidance designed to standardise charges by representative body the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities.
Labour MSP Jackie Baillie, who is convener of the cross-party group, said: “Ministers should bring forward clear and consistently enforced national guidelines to ensure that people in every part of Scotland are treated fairly.”
The group has written to all 32 councils and the Scottish government about tackling the discrepancies.
Ian Hood, co-ordinator of charity coalition the Learning Disability Alliance Scotland, said: “There is no rhyme or reason to how these care charges are worked out. People don’t mind making a fair contribution when they can afford it but local authorities can charge whatever they want without a clear explanation of how they worked out this charge.”
Mike Holmes, director of campaigns at learning disabiity charity ENABLE Scotland, said: “Nobody should be charged more than they can afford, but our concern is that, as local authorities feel the squeeze, things could get worse in some areas. We appreciate that councils are struggling, but it seems to us to be unjustifiable to pass on the financial burden to those who are least able to afford it.”