Changes to care charges will affect some in rural Northumberland

Changes which will mean increased charges for some adults receiving home care in Northumberland have been backed by councillors.

Wednesday, 13th February 2019, 14:39 pm
Updated Wednesday, 13th February 2019, 14:47 pm
Northumberland County Council

A number of amendments to Northumberland County Council’s charges for care and support services for adults were signed off by the cabinet at its meeting on Tuesday (February 12), but are now subject to final approval from the full council next Wednesday (February 20).

It follows a consultation in the two months before the Christmas break on six proposed changes to the charging policy for non-residential care and support services, with every current service user who could be affected written to individually.

These changes, which would apply from April 8, are:

The standard allowance for disability-related costs for people getting the highest rates of the main non-means-tested disability benefits is to be reduced to £35, which would increase the weekly charge for most people by £13.30.

The minimum income figures for members of a couple as set out in national regulations are to be adopted, while capping the additional charge for working-age adults, in order to end an anomaly which means that people with a spouse or partner often pay less than single people in similar circumstances.

Charges for home care will now take account of the full cost to the council, up to the limit of what the person is assessed as able to afford to pay, with exceptions for the ‘very rural’ areas and other special circumstances. Currently, it is subsidised in rural areas to match the lower cost of home care in south-east Northumberland, where travel times are much shorter and it is easier to find carers.

All social-care day services will be charged for on the basis of their full cost, up to the limit of what each person is assessed as able to afford to pay, from October 1 this year.

People paying by direct debit will no longer get a four per cent discount, but in its place, there will be an introductory offer for new charge-payers of a £10 discount on their first three bills.

People with savings of more than £23,250 who choose to ask the council to arrange their services rather than making private arrangements will be asked to pay an administration fee. This fee to be based on the actual costs and initially set at £3.45 or £4 for people not paying by Direct Debit.

The report to councillors states: ‘Among other messages, the consultation responses included expressions of concern about the impact on the quality of life of service users on low incomes and a view that people in rural areas receive poorer services and should not have to pay more.

However, it continues: ‘The new home-care contract to be introduced from April this year represents a significant investment in improving rural home care; the proposal on full-cost charging would mean that the minority of service users who can afford to contribute towards the cost of that investment would be asked to do so.’

Coun Glen Sanderson said that the changes were not something the cabinet relished doing, but they had looked at it very carefully before these conclusions were reached.

Council leader Peter Jackson added that the changes ‘very much take us in line with other authorities in the country’, while operating within the ‘straitjacket’ of the national regulations.

“We have changed some of the proposals following the consultation,” he added. “It has been a real consultation process and a very detailed process.”

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service