People often get confused about the difference between their social security benefits and the services that they receive from their local authorities or support provider.
This confusion is not surprising with each local authority in Scotland operating differently, an ever changing social security landscape and the introduction of Self Directed Support.
If we take a step back and try to understand the purpose behind each of these things then it can be easier to avoid confusion.
Social security benefits are sums of money which are usually paid from the Department for Work and Pensions from UK Government funds. Social security benefits are paid to cover specific things such as living costs (Job Seekers Allowance, Income Support or Employment and Support Allowance), housing costs (Housing Benefit) or costs linked to disability (Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment or Attendance Allowance).
You can receive social security benefits and not be in receipt of a Self Directed Support budget. You can be in receipt of a Self Directed Support budget and not get social security benefits.
This is because access to Self Directed Support is not based on your financial circumstances but on the help that you are assessed as requiring.
Under Self Directed Support you will be assessed by your local social work department. This assessment will generate a list of outcomes that would help improve your life. Based on these outcomes a financial figure will be produced that your local authority thinks will be adequate to help you achieve your outcomes. This figure will be your budget.
You then work with your local authority to produce a plan for how this budget will be used to help you achieve your outcomes. Your local authority should offer you four different options in how this money is spent ranging from controlling your budget for you to you being in complete control.
Your financial circumstances at this point are irrelevant.
Once the amount of your budget has been decided, however, your own financial circumstances do become relevant. This is because your local authority is likely to ask you for a contribution towards the cost of your budget.
The amount of your contribution is calculated by adding up your income from your social security benefits, savings and wages and then applying your local authorities charging policy. This contribution figure is then deducted from the budget you have been assessed as requiring and you will be expected to make up the difference.
Whilst your benefits may mean that you have to contribute an amount towards your services, your budget will have no impact on the amount of benefits that you receive.
Each local authority in Scotland has it’s own charging policy so the amount you will be asked to contribute can vary greatly from council to council. You should ask your local Social Work department for a copy of their policy and ask for assistance for them to explain this to you if you have any questions.
Further information on Self Directed Support can be found here: http://www.gov.scot/resource/0042/00423126.pdf
ENABLE Scotland has also been campaigning against the need for those in receipt of a budget to have to contribute towards this. We feel that this contribution is unfair and that it amounts to a ‘care tax’. Further details on this can be found here: http://scotlandagainstthecaretax.org/
If you disagree with your assessment then you can speak to your local social work department about challenging this.