Councils press on with home care charges increase

Councils are pushing ahead with plans to increase adult care charges by up to hundreds of pounds a week, sparking concern that consultations have proved tokenistic.

Of the 11 councils identified by Community Care last year as consulting on fee hikes, six have proceeded with plans to increase charges, and only one – Warwickshire – has revised its proposal to lessen the impact of fee hikes on service users. Two councils will decide over the next month and two could not be contacted.

The findings supplement research published last week by consumer watchdog Which? that identified a significant difference in charging levels between areas ahead of the latest increases.

“When local authorities consult on something they end up doing what they [proposed], said Neil Coyle, chair of the Coalition on Charging, a group of charities campaigning against hikes, “they are wasting money and time and barely meeting the spirit of the law on consultation.”

“The decision will probably have been made before consultation results are in,” said Ruth Cartwright, joint manager for England at the British Association of Social Workers.

However, Andrew Cozens, group lead for adult social care at the Local Government Association, said councils did take account of consultations and the impact their policies had on individuals, and that some changes designed to mitigate the impact of charge hikes might not be immediately apparent.

A spokesperson for one of the councils increasing charges, Westminster, said: “Ultimately, this is about prioritising resources to those who need our support most while also looking to apply a consistent and fair approach to charging which reflects people’s ability to pay.”

Councils which are increasing charges

● Warwickshire – Hourly home care rates to rise from £9.66 to £16.45, and maximum weekly charge for services (£387.13) scrapped from April 2012.

● Lincolnshire – Hourly home care rates to rise from £10.50 to £13.25, and maximum weekly charge up from £126 to £250.

● Westminster – £380 cap on home care charges removed.

● Hertfordshire – Maximum weekly charge (£346.50) scrapped and more stringent means-test applied to service users from April 2011.

● Bolton – Hourly home care rate up from £11.50 to £12.50 and maximum weekly charge up from £202 to £250, as of January 2011.

● Stoke-on-Trent – Scrapped maximum weekly charge for home care (£130).

● Poole – Maximum weekly charge to rise from £320 to £433.

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