Poll pledge ‘remedy’ could cost disabled even more

AN ATTEMPT to make up for a broken promise to disabled people could result in some of them paying more for their home care, a campaign group has warned.

In 2006 Welsh Labour dropped its election pledge to follow Scotland’s lead and make such care free, saying such a move would be prohibitively expensive.

Now the Assembly Government is introducing legislation to end the system under which people receiving home care pay wildly differing amounts according to which local authority area they live in. In the financial year that ended in March, people in Neath Port Talbot paid a maximum weekly charge for non-residential care of £200, while in Rhondda Cynon Taf the figure was £16.20.

About 14,000 people across Wales pay for home care charges.

Rhian Davies, who chairs the campaign group Coalition on Charging Cymru, said: “We remain opposed to the principle of charging for home care services, and we were encouraged that when we gave evidence to the Assembly’s legislation committee last week, members acknowledged our concerns.

“The Social Care Charging Measure is definitely needed and long overdue, but getting the detail right is crucial. The effectiveness of the measure, and any potential benefits to people who use home care services will all depend on how this measure is applied.

“The current postcode lottery, in terms of how much local authorities can charge, what they can charge for, and the non-standardised eligibility criteria that vary from council to council, must be tackled. This is why the Assembly must take the lead on home care charges.

“The proposed charging system as it stands allows councils too much sway. For example, if local authorities can introduce a £50 maximum weekly charge, we have very real concerns that this could be interpreted by some as a basic or standard charge that should be applied to everyone who pays for home care in their area.

“There must not be a situation where people are worse off because of the £50 maximum charge and having to pay more for their care – £50 a week adds up to £2,500 a year which is a lot of money, especially if you are on benefits or state pension and only bringing in £6,000 to £8,000 a year.”