Disability charity warns proposed adult care charges would come as blow to those hit hardest by pandemic

Date published: 12 January 2021

A disability charity has warned plans to introduce a raft of new adult care charges would come as a blow to those already hit hardest by the pandemic.

Rochdale council is proposing to begin charging ‘full cost-payers’ – those who have assets/savings over £23,250 or ‘sufficient income’ – for arranging their care and paying providers.

The weekly £12 fee would apply to those on ‘managed budgets’ – although those who lack the ‘mental capacity’ to organise their own support would be exempt.

It is one of a number of new adult social care charges the council is proposing in a bid to save £80,000 per year.

A similar proposal was floated last year, but was ultimately rejected by councillors who said the money should be found elsewhere.

However, with the council needing to find around £7m savings to close its 2021/22 budget gap – not including the cost of the pandemic – it is again being put forward for consultation.

Council leader Allen Brett said the authority was facing ‘a huge financial challenge and difficult choices’ – made harder by the impact of coronavirus and years of government cuts.

He said: “Our budget is much less than it was a decade ago, so clearly we have a lot less to spend. 

“Many savings are being made without impacting front-line services but while we continue working hard to identify savings that have the least impact on our residents, we have no option but to set a balanced budget. 

“These are not decisions we want to make following years of cuts, but we have to make sure the council is still here to provide the essential help and support.”

Other potential charges include a £50 fee if people cancel the Careline community alarm service within six months. This is to ensure the costs of fitting the equipment are recovered.

The authority is also proposing to supply and fit key safes at care recipients’ homes for a one-off charge of £110.

And existing charges for short-term care – usually in a residential home – could also rise from 80% to 85% of ‘usual age-related benefit levels’ from April.

The proposals are currently out for public consultation.

Hugh Fenn, interim CEO at leading disability charity Leonard Cheshire, has called on the council to think again.

“With no sustainable funding solution on the horizon from the government, it’s no surprise that councils are looking at charging for social care,” he said.

“But disabled adults are already among the hardest hit by COVID and the prospect of additional financial pressures, particularly for those on low incomes, compounds an already bleak outlook. 

“It’s inappropriate timing at best and Rochdale Council should review this proposal to ease pressure on those who may already struggle to meet everyday living costs.”

The council – which is forecasting its budget gap could rise to £25m in 2022/23 – is also consulting on proposed cuts to its community safety team and Rochdale town centre enforcement wardens to save an additional £109,000.

People are being urged to have their say on the proposals, with a public consultation set to run until 17 February.

Full details can be found at www.rochdale.gov.uk/savings

Those without online access can get copies of the reports and give their views in writing at the council’s Number One Riverside offices, in the town centre.

Once feedback has been received, final decisions are due to be made at a full council meeting on 3 March.

Nick Statham, Local Democracy Reporter

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