Charities including Mencap, Mind and Age Concern today urged the government to review the impact of home care charges on older and disabled people, claiming they are adding to poverty.
In a report this week, the 18-strong Coalition on Charging, which comprises disability and older people’s groups, said rising charges coupled with tightening eligibility criteria for adult care meant more people were being “squeezed out” of services and had to rely on informal carers.
Under the government’s Fairer Charging guidance, councils are permitted to charge for home care so long as fees do not push users’ incomes below income support levels plus 25%. Where disability benefits are included in assessments of users’ income, councils must then take into account any disability-related expenditure.
A snapshot survey of 61 older and disabled people found that of the 63% who paid charges for services, over half could not afford them or only afford them with difficulty. Some 22% said they may stop using services if charges increased, while 41% said they had no choice but to continue using chargeable services.
Sue Bott, director of coalition member the National Centre for Independent Living, said it was “worrying” that little attention was being paid to the impact of charging on older and disabled service users, who were mainly poor.
“We must start asking whether charges are reasonable and based on people’s ability to pay,” she said. “There is scant information on the national situation about how charging is being increased. It is frustrating that we are spending a lot of time and effort talking about adult social care funding in the future but not taking this into account.”
The Department of Health is currently reviewing guidance on charging in relation to the roll-out of personal budgets for care users from 2008-11, with changes implemented by April 2009. However, the coalition’s report said this was a cost-neutral exercise that was not intended to affect how much people were charged or how they were assessed for charges.