Councils are flouting government statutory guidance on the level of charges they can levy on disabled people for care services, campaigners have claimed.
The Coalition on Charging claimed some councils were departing from guidance specifying how they should take into account the additional costs of being disabled when levying charges on users in receipt of attendance allowance or disability living allowance.
Under the government’s fairer charging guidance, councils should assess DLA and AA claimants’ disability-related expenditure in order to leave them with enough money to pay for “reasonable expenditure needed for independent living”.
However, the coalition said a study of 15 councils’ charging policies found cases where the guidance was not being fully complied with.
It said Cambridgeshire Council gave DLA or AA claimants the option of a £26 flat payment a week in lieu of an assessment of disability-related expenditure.
“We don’t think blanket policies conform with Department of Health guidance because we know that many disabled people’s full expenditure is not identified when blanket policies are used,” said Neil Coyle, chair of the coalition, which represents over 20 disability and older people’s organisations.
“We see this approach as causing significant hardship for disabled people and their families,” he added.
However, a Cambridgeshire Council spokesperson said: “Guidance for staff makes it clear that service users must be given the option of receiving either a standard disability-related cost regard or an individual assessment of their disability-related costs.”
He said some users may see the option as positive as they would not have to undergo an assessment of their spending, but added that the policy would be reviewed in 2011-12.
The coalition also found that 12 of the 15 councils sampled had increased hourly charges for home care in the past year, while 12 had either abolished or raised maximum weekly charges for care services.
The coalition said it would be investigating council’s charging policies further and would consider legal challenges where it felt there was a breach of statutory guidance.
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