Elderly and vulnerable may pay up to £160 more for home care

ELDERLY and vulnerable people may end up paying up to £160 extra a month for home care, under new plans being considered by Barnsley Council.

The authority's cabinet committee discussed the plans at a meeting this week and is now launching a public consultation on the proposals, which will hit those with savings in the bank the hardest.

A spokesman for Barnsley Council said: "The council is facing a very difficult financial challenge over the next few years.

"Current charges do not reflect the full cost of services and are currently lower than almost all other local authorities, many of whom charge full cost for all services.

"Ultimately there is an expectation that councils charge.

"Therefore, unless Barnsley brings its charges into line with others it will be faced with a lower level of comparative funding, which would result in providing services to fewer people.

"The review will potentially affect people who receive home care, day care, transport and respite care, including direct payments.

"Services that will not be affected include residential care, adaptations to homes, community alarms and other alerts and warning devices sometimes known as telecare."

The spokesman said that the changes will not affect the estimated 20 per cent of people who currently do not pay anything towards the cost of their care, because they cannot afford to do so.

If the plans go ahead, the majority of people would pay between 15 and 20 extra per week for the care they receive.

However, those with savings above the threshold of 23,250 would pay the maximum charges, which would increase by between 35 and 40 per week.

The actual charges would be set at around 13 per hour for home care and 35 a day for day care.

Currently, the maximum charge that anyone pays, regardless of their means, is 60 a week, though this is set to be raised to between 80 and 100.

Those with savings, therefore, could soon be paying as much as 400 a month for their care.

Following the consultation period, the changes could be introduced as early as April this year.

The spokesman added that there are two main reasons for changing the council's existing policy, and said: "The way that the council supports people with social care needs is changing with the introduction of personal budgets.

"A personal budget is an agreed amount of money which gives people more flexibility, choice and control over how their social care needs can be met.

"The Government has issued new guidance to councils about how to calculate the amount that people should pay towards the cost of their care

"Whatever the final proposals are, it is likely that some people will have to pay more for their services, but protection will continue to be given to those with the lowest incomes.

"No one will be asked to contribute more than they can afford to pay and there are national rules about how this is worked out."

The changes are part of Barnsley Council's wider strategy to save 26m this year and 45m over the next four years, in the face of harsh Government spending cuts.

It is anticipated that about 1,200 staff at the authority will lose their jobs over the next four years, due to budget cuts which chief executive Phil Coppard has described as "devastating."

Staff have also been notified of a pay freeze and told their current contracts will be replaced by contracts with fewer benefits.

It is thought that raising care charges could raise an extra 1m for Barnsley Council during the 2011/12 financial year.

Those who wish to take part in the public consultation on the proposals, which will last for 12 weeks, should call Barnsley Council on 01226 775818.