Vulnerable Care Charges ‘Unfair’ Across Wales

New powers could bring an end to a wide variation in charges of more than £160 a week to care for vulnerable people in their homes across Wales.

The assembly government says it wants a “fairer and more consistent” system to close the gap.

The charges are set by local councils and range from £16.20 in Rhondda Cynon Taf to as much as £185 in Powys.

Ministers are bidding for the powers under a new law which allows them to create legislation in certain ways.

If the assembly government is successful in its bid, it would enable it to legislate against any disparity.

The bid, which is officially called the domiciliary care Legislative Competence Order (LCO), has been made possible by the 2006 Government of Wales Act.

Any new Welsh laws would cover about 30,000 vulnerable people in Wales who receive their care outside a care home, either through emergency respite at home or day care centres.

The basic level of service covered by this area of care includes getting people up from bed in the morning, helping them to wash themselves, preparing food and getting them to bed at night.

Of the 22 local authorities in Wales, seven charge more than £100 per week for this type of care. Another seven have not set a maximum charge, which means they can charge as much as they like.

Newport Council has a system of banded maximums which depend on service levels and accessible income.

The current cost of delivering this service is about £350m, of which £36m is collected from charges.

Having failed to introduce free home care for all during the second assembly term in 2003-07, the assembly government pledged extra resources from April to reduce the financial pressures for those on low incomes.

As a result, some 2,000 people came out of the charging regime completely and costs were reduced for a further 7,000.

Any new powers granted to the assembly government would not lead to a uniform level of charging across Wales, but local authorities would have to set charges within a framework set out in the legislation.

Any changes would be unlikely before April 2009.

Gwenda Thomas, deputy minister for social services, said the assembly government was committed to a “fairer and more consistent approach to charging”.

The seeking of additional powers is linked to the assembly government’s 10-year strategy for social services in Wales which envisages a shift from residential care towards home-based care.

An assembly government spokesman said research and consultation would be undertaken in order to determine how best to achieve a fairer approach.

Rhondda Cynon Taf – £16.20
Anglesey – £30.33
Merthyr Tydfil – £52.50
Caerphilly – £80
Gwynedd – £84
Carmarthenshire – £85
Blaenau Gwent – £100
Pembrokeshire – £109
Ceredigion – £120
Monmouthshire – £150
Torfaen – £150
Neath Port Talbot – £160
Swansea – £165
Powys – £185

Bridgend, Cardiff, Conwy, Denbighshire, Flintshire, Vale of Glamorgan and Wrexham do not have a maximum weekly charge
Source: Welsh Assembly Government