Care charges set to soar for users in Warwickshire

Adult care user charges at Warwickshire Council look set to rocket, sparking concerns that other authorities could follow suit.

Adult care user charges at Warwickshire Council look set to rocket, sparking concerns that other authorities could follow suit.

The council, which says its user charges are below average, has launched a three-month consultation on plans to remove or reduce subsidies for services including home, day and respite care, direct payments and transport.

The plans would see maximum charges for home care rise from £9.66 to £16.45 an hour by next April , with day care rates rising from £5.55 to £25 a day over the same period.

These would be means-tested so that less than half of users would pay increased charges; however Warwickshire is proposing to reduce the extent to which it protects poorer users.

If the changes go ahead, people’s incomes would not be allowed to fall below income support levels plus 25% as a result of charges, in line with government guidance. Warwickshire currently protects incomes to the level of income support plus 40%.

The authority said it could no longer afford to subsidise services at current levels, particularly given government plans to cut council budgets and freeze council tax levels next year.

It added that it needed new charging policies as it introduced personal budgets for all adult social care clients, with a full roll-out due by 2012.

Izzi Seccombe, portfolio-holder for adult social care, said: “We will do our level best to incorporate what we can from the [consultation] feedback into how we develop the change, and to accommodate what we can within the budget.”

Campaigners raised concerns that the squeeze on public finances over the next few years would force charges up nationally.

Counsel and Care’s senior policy and communications officer, Anna Passingham, said: “Counsel and Care is really concerned about the potential for huge increases in charging for non-residential services. Over 10% of all calls to Counsel and Care’s advice service in 2009 were about issues related to care charging and problems with getting care at home.

“With the massive squeeze on local authority budgets, we predict that this situation will just get even more difficult for older people and their carers.”

Guy Parckar, Leonard Cheshire Disability’s policy and campaigns manager, said: “If cuts are targeted at disabled people and the services that they need, like social care, then we will find that people who need the services the most, and are least able to be able to fund them themselves, are the people who will be losing out.”

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