Wales moves to end postcode lottery for care services

People receiving non-residential social services such as home care services in Wales will pay a maximum of £50 per week for the assistance, the Welsh Assembly Government has confirmed, in a move welcomed by BASW Cymru.

The move, designed to end the so called postcode lottery whereby charges for similar services varies according to where you live in Wales, came into force on 11 April, following legislation passed in 2009 – the Social Care Charges (Wales) Measure 2010.

The maximum charge formed part of a wider £10.1million a year ‘First Steps Improvement Package’, which also includes measures to prohibit local authorities from charging for transport to day centres, offering financial safeguards for those on low incomes and requires authorities to introduce a consistent procedure for reviewing charges within a specific timeframe.

The Welsh Assembly Government is also extending the Direct Payments scheme.

New BASW Cymru manager Robin Moulster said the move was “a welcome step towards establishing more fairness and transparency in the social care system, especially for vulnerable older people and their families”.

Deputy health and social care minister Gwenda Thomas said: “As a government, we are committed to investing in social care services. Indeed, despite the impact of the UK Government’s cuts to the Welsh budget, the health and social services budget is going to be protected, in cash terms, in 2011-12.

“By 2013-14, an extra £35m will be invested in social services in Wales – representing a 3% overall increase – in order to protect the vital services that people rely on. In addition, we are also investing £10.1m a year in these changes to reimburse local authorities for the loss of income through charging.

“The evidence presented to me clearly showed that those who receive these services experience inequity due to the wide inconsistencies that exist in the charging systems operated by local authorities. When we undertook the research, the upper limits for weekly charges for homecare in Wales varied considerably; from £16.20 in Rhondda Cynon Taf to £200 in Neath Port Talbot, and some local authorities in Wales have no upper limit. This is clearly unfair and unacceptable.

Ms Thomas suggested that in a third of local authorities those paying the maximum charge will save an average of £7,000 a year following the introduction of these measures

Under the new measures, local authorities will continue to be able to set charges as they consider reasonable, however, this discretion will be subject to specific detailed limitations.

In Wales, more than 66,000 older and disabled people receive community based social services – such as homecare, day care and other non-residential services – each year. Approximately 14,000 people, who rely on these services to live independently at home, are charged for them.