A study undertaken by the Independent Living Strategy Group has shown that the disability tax – the name given to the charges put upon disabled people for social care support – undermines people’s well-being and independence through the additional stress and need to cut back on living essentials, they have concluded.

The study of more than 600 people showed that disabled people were having to use the money they had set aside for food, housing or heating in order to pay for their social care support, forcing them into debt in order to pay for a service they require to live. 40% of respondents reported that the cost of social care support had increased, sometimes by as much as half, in the last two years.

Independent Living Strategy Group’s information for the study was gathered through Freedom of Information requests and shows that charging for the service is “inefficient and counter-productive,” with 11% of the money generated being swallowed by the cost of means testing and writing off bad debts, and the £5 million generated constituting just 12% of the community services budget.

Baroness Jane Campbell, chair of the group, said: “Support provided under the Care Act is meant to improve the wellbeing and independence of disabled people. By charging many for that support, the system is making a mockery of the spirit of the legislation and causing worry, stress and poverty.

“Charging raises a relatively small sum of money which is pushing up costs elsewhere. The financial impact of personal care neglect such as pressure sores, kidney infections or falls, as well as stress-related illnesses, means finding extra resources for the NHS.

“That false economy is compounded further by the block that charging poses on integration of health and social care – the holy grail for efficiency in our care services. The money raised through means-tested charges represents only a tiny fraction of the £7 billion removed from social care budgets since 2010.”

Sue Bott from Disability Rights UK said of the study: “If councils are to persist in this iniquitous tax on disability, they must at least reintroduce some consistency and clarity to their approach. The many councils that have failed to conduct an equality impact assessment – and to monitor the numbers of disabled people driven out of the care system by charging – must also get their act together.”

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