Disability benefits 'prop up' council care schemes

Image caption,
The government said changes to the benefit system could save £1bn a year

Proposed changes to disability benefits could hit hard-pressed local authorities, a charity has warned.

Capability Scotland said that if fewer people claimed benefits like Disability Living Allowance (DLA), councils would have to make up the difference.

The warning comes as the UK coalition government's consultation on changes to the benefit system closes on Friday.

Ministers want to replace DLA with a different payment, which fewer people will be eligible for.

The government hopes the move will save more than £1bn a year.

Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is a non-means tested benefit that provides cash to disabled people to help with support needs.

Local authorities are allowed to charge disabled adults living in their own home for care services, including help with dressing and feeding.

However, Capability Scotland found that the vast majority of Scotland's 32 councils included DLA benefits as "earned income" when they assessed how much to charge those receiving care.

The charity said the disabled person's income was artificially inflated, leading to a higher charge for care and lower overall cost to the local authority providing it.

Capability's director of external affairs, Richard Hamer, said: "The results of Capability's latest survey suggest that the proposed DLA changes will hit local authority finances hard.

"Cosla guidance states that local authorities should ensure that an individual has a reasonable quality of life after the costs of care and extra disability-related expenses are met.

"Most local authorities are flouting this with the result that disabled people are propping up care services with money from their own pockets."

Mr Hamer called on the council umbrella body Cosla to update its guidance to reflect best practice in England, where the situation is different.

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