Consultation on changes to social-care charges in Northumberland

Coun Susan Dungworth
Coun Susan Dungworth

A consultation is taking place on changes which could see people with a spouse or those living in rural areas paying more for their home care.

Northumberland County Council is talking to people who receive non-residential care about planned changes to its charging policy, at a time when significant savings are being sought from the authority’s adult social care budget.

A report to the council’s health and wellbeing committee last Tuesday (November 6) outlined the six main changes being proposed:

People who receive the highest rates of Attendance Allowance, Disability Living Allowance (Care Component) or Personal Independence Payment (Daily Living Component) would pay an additional £13.30 per week, unless they can demonstrate that they spend more than £35 a week on other costs related to their disability.

People who have a spouse or partner would be assessed as able to pay £43.90 a week more, if they or their partner are over state pension age, or £19.45 a week more otherwise, ending an anomaly which means that they often pay less than single people in similar circumstances.

People in rural areas who can afford to would pay the full cost of their home care, although there would be protection for people living in some very remote areas where it is particularly expensive. Currently, it is subsidised to match the lower cost of home care in south-east Northumberland, where travel times are much shorter and it is easier to find carers.

People using some day-care services, which are currently free or subsidised, would be asked to pay the full cost if they can afford to.

People paying by direct debit would no longer get a four per cent discount. This reduction costs the council £200,000 per year.

People with savings of more than £23,250 who choose to ask the council to arrange their services rather than making private arrangements would be asked to pay an administration fee of £3.45 to £4 per week.

Coun Veronica Jones, the cabinet member for adult health and wellbeing, emphasised that the proposals are simply out for consultation at this stage, adding that no one will have to pay if they can’t afford it.

But Labour’s Coun Susan Dungworth added sarcastically: “If some people are being asked to pay £50 more a week, those people will feel so reassured that austerity is over.”

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service