'I will have to turn to food banks' - county councillors to consider care charge change today as fears mount
"It is hitting the poor once more. I will have to turn to food banks " - one of hundreds of responses to a controversial move to charge thousands of vulnerable people more for their care.
Councillors will today decide whether to put forward changes to Norfolk County Council’s charging policy for adult social care for next year’s budget, to save County Hall £4m.
But they will do so in the face of opposition from furious families, who say the move will push more people into poverty, increasing isolation and loneliness.
The proposal will change the ‘minimum income guarantee’used by the council to assess how much people aged 18 to 64 pay for care - which will mean thousands of vulnerable have to pay more.
At the moment, the council uses a rate of £189 a week for everyone, but wants to change that to £123.45 for those aged 18 to 24 and £151.45 a week for those aged 25 to 64.
Proposals would also see a benefit - the enhanced element of personal independence payments (PIP) - taken into account when assessing care.
That could lead to about 1,000 people having to pay more for care and some 1,400 people could have to pay for care for the first time.
The council needs to save £79m over the next three years and figure out how to plug a further £46m gap. But the proposals were criticised during consultation.
Of 419 who replied over the minimum income guarantee change, 247 (58.9pc) disagreed or strongly disagreed to the proposal.
And on taking the PIP into account, 267 of the 419 (63pc) strongly disagreed or disagreed.
Comments included: “I can’t live with anything less” and “I’m struggling now to keep my head above water - this is causing me stress.”
The council has said it is doing more than ever before to help people live independently and will be investing £1m to help people find jobs and training.
A spokeswoman for Norfolk County Council said: One of the reasons we have consulted on the proposal was to understand the impact this would have on the people who would be affected and their carers, and we are grateful to people for responding with their views.
“The feedback will form an essential part of the evidence that our members will take into account when considering this proposal.
“In particular, it has informed our equality and rural assessment which outlines a number of mitigating actions which will be considered by members of the adult social care committee.
“These include phasing in the amount that the council asks people to pay so that changes are not made all at once, supporting individuals to address any barriers they may have to managing their spending and to provide one-to-one guidance and advice.
“No one needs to cancel their current care arrangements and if anyone has concerns please call 0344 8008020.”
Case Study: ‘That will take away some of the few pleasures he has in life’
The father of a young man with learning disabilities is among those pleading with council bosses not to bring in the changes.
John Hannaway, who lives in Watton, is concerned about the impact of the changes on his son, who is autistic with severe learning disabilities and lives in sheltered housing in Dereham.
He said his son will be £37.45 a week worse off if the changes go ahead and said: “That will take away some of the few pleasures he has in life, such as hobbies, keep fit and being taken for days out.
“Those would have to stop, leaving him more housebound, which would increase his depression and anxiety.”
He said the council had previously halved his automatic disability related allowance from £15 to £7.50, while wardens and an emergency alarm system in his home had been axed.
He said his son was unemployable so the promised £1m of support would not benefit him.