Faced with ‘significant budget pressures’ Cambridgeshire County Council rolls out proposals for charging more for adult social care

Cllr Anna Bailey, chairwoman of the adults committee said: “Due to the significant budget pressures

Cllr Anna Bailey, chairwoman of the adults committee said: “Due to the significant budget pressures and the temporary nature of government funding for adult social care means we now have to make difficult decisions'Picture; CCC - Credit: Archant

Changes to the way adult social care is paid for in Cambridgeshire will have widespread affects that for some disabled people mean they have to find an extra £28.95 a week.

What are termed "historic" rules will give way to assessing a range of benefits in calculating care that could net the council an extra £1.2 million a year.

The proposal is one of a number being discussed by the adults committee of Cambridgeshire County Council and will now go out to consultation.

A council report explains that disability benefits are paid by central Government to help people pay for their care and support - including towards the cost of care where it is arranged and funded by the council.

Cambridgeshire's charging policy has previously included only the lower and middle rates of these benefits, based on historic charging rules and guidance - however the Care Act charging and assessment guidance allows councils to include all rates.

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"It is therefore proposed to now include all rates (low, middle or high) of the following disability benefits in the financial assessment calculation," says the report.

These will include attendance allowance, the care component of disability living allowance and the care component of personal independence payment.

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And nearly 100 people who pay for short term respite care are facing rises of up to £140 a week, boosting council income by up to £50,000 a year.

There is also a proposal to introduce a new charge for those whose social security benefits and finances are managed by the council. This group have their benefits managed by the council because they either lack the mental capacity or physical ability to undertake the work themselves.

The proposal is to charge only those who have a capital balance above £1,000 - applying a weekly charge of £10 for those in residential care, and £12.50 for those living in the community.

A fourth proposal includes upping the contribution from those protected by the minimum income guarantee (MIG) that could now be lowered which in turn would increase contributions from users.

The new figure - in line with Department of Health and Social Care rules- will mean 1,150 clients, could expect to pay up to £5.50 a week extra. It would raise £328,000 a year, says the council.

And finally those who use the council to arrange care for them will find the one-off fee of £75 changed to an annual fee that could be as high as £400. The council says their input for the 200 or so who use this service can often save them money through sourcing and monitoring care providers.

"If all the proposals were to be fully adopted and implemented, some 800 people could experience a weekly increase in the share of their homecare costs that they contribute of up to £35," says the report.

"These individuals will have higher incomes that will not previously have been taken into account in the financial assessment.

"After paying their increased share towards the cost of their care and support they will nevertheless be left with income levels that are above protected minimum income levels after care charges."

The adults committee has approved a 12 week public consultation on the changes..

A spokesman said: "The alternative would be a reduction in the overall budget available to meet care needs or a reduction in prevention and services that help keep people living as independently as possible."

The spokesman said that many people receive disability benefits which are paid specifically by the Government to help meet the costs of their care and support. Since the introduction of the Care Act 2014, councils have been allowed to charge for certain non-statutory adult social care services and take into account some disability benefits when charging.

"The majority of councils across the country have subsequently introduced such changes," said the spokesman.

Cllr Anna Bailey, chairwoman of the adults committee said: "We have thought long and hard about this and we are one of the last councils to explore this option. "However, due to the significant budget pressures and the temporary nature of government funding for adult social care means we now have to make difficult decisions.

"If we don't explore this, the other options we would need to pursue would be to reduce those free preventative services we provide that help keep people safe, well and living independently as possible.

"There would also be the danger that we would not have enough budget for care packages."

The county council says pressures include a growth in the population of people aged 80 plus that is expected to grow by 30 per cent by 2024.

The adults committee has a budget for this year of £150 million but officers say it needs to grow by five per cent annually "just to stand still".

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