County defends care charge policy

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THE county council’s administration has defended its decision to bring in a new care charging policy.

Initial plans to remove the cap of £120 a week on how much elderly and disabled people pay for care in their own homes were shelved before the authority’s meeting to set its budget last month.

But the amount was increased to £251 and this move was criticised by the Conservative group, which proposed to increase the weekly cap to £150.

Now the Liberal Democrat executive has responded by saying that only about 250 of the 3,200 people in Northumberland who receive the services covered by the charge are expected to contribute more from April 9 because of the new policy.

The maximum figure has been set at 60 per cent of the current cost for residential short-break care in care homes, although unlike residential care fees the financial assessment will take account only of people’s savings and their unearned income.

Coun Ian Lindley, Executive Member for Adult Care and Well-being, said: “The increased charges will only affect a minority of service users who have substantial savings or pensions.

“Most people who use social care services will see little change to their charges – and many will actually pay less.

“In the current financial situation we have an obligation to protect services for the most vulnerable. Only those who can afford the extra cost of this care will be expected to make that contribution.”