Disability charity urges rethink over new care charge plans

Date published: 04 November 2019

A disability charity has urged the council to think again about plans to introduce a new adult social care charge. 

Rochdale Council is proposing to start charging some people for organising their care to save £29,000 per year from its budget. 

Under the plans the council would bill ‘full cost payers’ – those with assets/savings over £23,250 or a ‘sufficient income’ – for arranging their care and support and paying providers.

At present, the council absorbs the cost of doing this for those adult social care recipients on ‘managed budgets’

But with the authority facing a £14.4m funding gap next year, bosses are now considering charging ‘full cost payers’ £10 per week for the service.

However, a leading disability charity, Leonard Cheshire, has called on the council to think again, arguing the cut could hit the most vulnerable hardest.

Sharlene McGee, policy manager at Leonard Cheshire, said: “Despite the financial pressures, Rochdale Council should review their proposal because of the potential consequences on disabled people, particularly those on low incomes who may already struggle to meet essential housing or other costs.”

However, she acknowledged the financial strain local authorities continue to operate under.

“Budget cuts have meant spending by councils on adult social care have reduced by more than £700 million since 2010,” she added.

“Councils are struggling to meet their statutory duties to disabled adults and older people, who need support to work and live independent lives.

“Sadly, with no sustainable funding solution in sight from the government, many councils are looking at charges and other measures to make up for budget deficits.”

Council papers say that the change would maximise income to the service and cover its costs.

Council leader Allen Brett also pointed the finger at the government.

He said: “Even though demand for services has increased, the government continues to slash our funding. 

“While we will continue working hard to identify savings that have the least impact on our residents, we must be realistic about the fact that there will be more difficult decisions to be made.

“We have no option but to set a balanced budget.”

The authority is also proposing to axe its anti-smoking programmes – with the exception of those it is legally obliged to run – to save £33,000 per year.

These include the Decipher Assist peer support programme delivered in schools, and the promotion of smoke-free environments.

A controversial proposal to relocate Milnrow Youth Centre – only as far as the village library according to assurances from Councillor Brett – would save £3,000.

Residents are being urged to take part in the public consultation on the council’s savings proposals for 2020/21.

Details of the proposals are available on the council web site. Information will also be available in local libraries and council Customer Service Centres, where residents can use the free computers.

Residents have from now until 13 December 2019 to give their views.

Nick Statham, Local Democracy Reporter

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