Devon set to introduce new charges

The largest local authority in the south west is to introduce
charges for services that were previously free, writes
Alex Dobson

Devon council is introducing the charges because the council
faces a £2.6 million overspend on social services. They are
expected to affect day care centres, respite care for children with
disabilities and equipment for independent living.

The decision to introduce the new charges as well as increase
charges for other services is expected to raise an extra
£217,000 in this financial year, and more than £1 million
next year.

Growing budget pressure means that the Devon is also looking to
spearhead a joint regional campaign alongside neighbouring
authorities to highlight government under funding of social

John Smith, councillor responsible for children’s social
services, said: “It is with deep sadness that we have had to take
this action which is likely to be just one of a series of painful
decisions needed over the coming weeks and months. It is clear that
Devon is not alone in experiencing this kind of budget pressure
caused by ever rising demand for services, which is simply not
matched by resources from central government.

“We will therefore be looking to join with our colleagues across
the south west in a campaign for national recognition of our
situation,” he said.

Caroline Cooke, policy and research officer for the charity
Scope, said that the proposals would deny many people a vital
service and was part of a worrying trend.

“Scope is fundamentally opposed to policies that deny services
to people who desperately need them,” she said.

She warned that means testing in cases where families were
looking for respite care for disabled children would be likely to
result in people being driven into extreme financial hardship.

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