The Welsh government has unveiled plans to cut local authority charges for non-residential care services and limit current inconsistencies in rates between areas.
Deputy minister for social services Gwenda Thomas said she wanted introduce maximum weekly charges of £50 for services including domiciliary care, day care and meals and end charges for transport to day centres.
All charge for home care
Though charges are discretionary, all 22 councils charge for home care and meals services and 15 charge for day care.
Charging policies are currently governed by statutory guidance, designed to protect users including by specifying that charges should not reduce their net incomes to below the level of income support or pension credit plus 35%.
However, rates for home care vary from £5.60 to £15.32 an hour, while maximum weekly domiciliary care charges vary from £16.20 to £200.
The package of reforms, due to come into force from April 2011, would be brought in under a measure – the equivalent of a bill in the Welsh Assembly – published yesterday.
The Social Care Charges (Wales) Measure would enable ministers to make regulations setting maximum charges, specifying which client groups or services should be exempt from charges, and obliging councils to produce accessible information about charges and review rates within defined timescales.
Inconsistencies to be ‘significantly reduced’
Thomas said: “This proposed measure is our opportunity to put in place a far more consistent charging policy for non-residential social services. This will mean that the wide inconsistencies that currently exist will be significantly reduced.”
She said the £50 maximum weekly charge “would provide a further financial safeguard to ensure that the burden of charges is reduced to some of our most vulnerable people in our society”.
The Welsh government had to seek permission for the measure from the UK parliament as it involves amending primary legislation.
Free home care pledge dropped
The Welsh Labour party – which is in coalition with Plaid Cymru – had pledged in its 2003 manifesto for the assembly elections to introduce free but ditched the idea in 2006 on cost grounds.
Leonard Cheshire poll backs free home care for disabled people in Wales