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Watchdog backs council in complaint over care cost changes for disabled

PUBLISHED: 15:49 02 December 2019 | UPDATED: 15:55 02 December 2019

Disabled people, their parents and carers at a public meeting at County Hall. Pic: Philip Williams.

Disabled people, their parents and carers at a public meeting at County Hall. Pic: Philip Williams.

Philip Williams

A watchdog ruled Norfolk County Council was within its rights to make changes to how much disabled people pay for their care - and the consultation process was not flawed.

Norfolk County Council's County Hall headquarters in Norwich. Pic: Neil Perry.Norfolk County Council's County Hall headquarters in Norwich. Pic: Neil Perry.

The Conservative-controlled council has come in for criticism for changing the minimum income guarantee, used to assess how much people aged 18 to 64 pay towards their care.

It saved £4m from the adult social care budget, with the council saying it brought it in line with other local authorities.

But the council's own impact assessment warned it would bring financial hardship to disabled people.

Disabled people have been campaigning against the changes and a complaint was lodged with the local government and social care ombudsman over the decision and consultation.

Complainant Mr X, had said the consultation exercise was flawed.

He said it was not made available to all who may have had a potential interest, it hard to respond to as it was unclear what the proposals were and they went against the council's public sector equality duty.

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The ombudsman said they could not rule out the possibility some may not have been consulted who would have had an interest or that some people might have found it hard to understand.

But they said that was not necessarily fault by the council.

They said it was open to anyone who wanted to respond, support was available to those who had difficulties understanding, there had been a "significant number of responses" and the council had taken account of what people said.

They said: "Not surprisingly, they were not popular with those affected by them. However, a consultation exercise is not the same as a public vote.

"Having taken into account of the consultation responses, the council agreed some mitigating action, including implementing the proposals over two years, but went ahead with them nonetheless.

"That was something the council was entitled to do and, without any fault, not something I can criticise."

The ombudsman concluded they had not found fault with the council's actions.

A spokesman for Norfolk County Council said: "We've received the decision of the ombudsman and noted their ruling in full."

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