Dismay at council care price hikes

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VULNERABLE people are facing prohibitive and inflation-busting price hikes for council care services, it has been claimed.

Cllr Bill Chatt said he was so outraged when he heard that North Yorkshire County Council had decided on the increase in charges – in some cases by almost 2,500 per cent – that he spoke against it when it was queried by a council scrutiny committee.

The authority has reassured residents that the new system will take into account a person’s ability to pay. But the decision has now been called in for scrutiny because seven county councillors felt that the increase for daily charges were prohibitive and the level of charges could lead to a drop in take up for services – leading to it becoming unviable.

Under the changes people with learning difficulties will now be charged £49.10 per day for a place at a day centre – it is understood that the previous charge was £2. And they would also face a charge of £197.10 for 24 hours of respite care – compared with a previous charge £121.66 – or £1,379.70 per week.

Cllr Chatt said: “I accept the fact that £2 was fairly low but £49.10 is too high. I think it’s appalling. At the end of the day it’s a 2,500 per cent increase overnight. We are talking about some of the most vulnerable people in our community.”

He warned that this could lead to people feeling isolated because they would be denied care services, adding: “We’ll make people prisoners in their own homes.”

The move comes in the wake of the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review, which saw council budgets across the country slashed.

Cllr Peter Popple, the vice chairman of the county council’s Care and Independence Overview and Scrutiny Committee, said: “I think the amount of increase is disgraceful. We were promised that once the cuts happened they would protect the vulnerable. These huge increases will price many people out of the market.”

But a county council spokeswoman said the revised system of charges for services would take into account people’s ability to pay and people would only pay what they could afford. She added: “It is intended to ensure that all people receiving care pay a more realistic amount for the same service, though the package of care they are offered will be highly personalised.”

The spokeswoman said the amount people would have to pay would be affected by the amount of weekly disposable income they had available for such services and that everybody receiving care would undergo a means-tested financial assessment.