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Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Most disabled people in Notts out-of-pocket as care costs increase

There have also been 25 formal complaints on the issue, a new report said.

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Vulnerable people in Nottinghamshire are still considerably out of pocket, months after a controversial change to the way benefits are charged came into effect.

Nottinghamshire County Council said the extra £3.8 million a year extra it was going to be charging disabled people for their care would largely be made up by ensuring they were getting all the benefits they were entitled to.

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However just £250,000 a year in extra benefits has been found – 15 times less than the £3.8 million extra that disabled people will be paying.

More than 2,000 calls have been received by the council about the changes since they came into effect in April, forcing the authority to create three new jobs to help deal with the increase in casework and concerns being raised.

There have also been 25 formal complaints on the issue, a new report said.

A decision taken last year means people with severe disabilities in the county are allowed to keep less of their benefits before they have to pay for the care they get.

The Conservative-controlled council said the move will help it save £3.8 million a year, helping reduce its huge budget shortfall. It is still facing a £34m shortfall by 2022/23.

It brings the council in line with the Government-set maximum it is allowed to charge for residents’ care.

But hundreds of people were given just 48 hours’ notice that their care charges would increase by up to £84 a week.

The leader of the council, Councillor Kay Cutts, then apologised for the way the issue had been handled, and agreed to pause the roll-out in favour of a two-phased implementation.

It means the first price hike came into effect in April, with the second increase in charges due in November this year.

In total, 3,500 of the most vulnerable people in the county were told they had to pay more, and 721 started paying for the first time.

Martin Cater, of Arnold, worked for the county council for almost 30 years, and now cares for his son Stephen, 42, who is quadriplegic, brain-damaged and has cerebral palsy.

He complained about the decision to the council, but from November will be paying an extra £62 a week for the care of his son.

He said: “It’s horrible, just horrible to see. I’m left massively out of pocket. They know that, and they know this is going to make it worse.

“They say there’s a £20 allowance for people to cover disability-related expenditure. But I spend that in a week on washing powder alone for Stephen.”

“They just don’t realise exactly what’s involved, and when you try to approach them you just get nothing. They don’t care.

“They’re not calling it charges, they’re calling it ‘contributions’, which makes it sound like it’s voluntary. Obviously it’s not.

“I am quite fortunate, because I’ve got a reasonable pension, so I can keep up with the payments and the extra cost, but some people will be really struggling.

“I can well believe they’ve had to bring extra people in to handle the complaints.”

Labour leader Alan Rhodes, who represents Worksop North, said: “Older people and people with disabilities have been unfairly targeted for a long time in respect to cuts to their services, based on the so-called need to make savings.

“I think the whole social care service has been cut back far too far and it’s not being properly funded by central government so they’re having to cut it back even further.”

“This report doesn’t change anything in a positive way. We can tell how much it’s affecting people by the dramatic increase in complaints.

“The green paper (expected from the Government on the future of social care) is very overdue now, it’s completely unacceptable. We need to have a proper plan for funding social care in this country going forward.”

The council declined to comment on the report, ahead of a meeting on the subject next week.

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