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County U-turn scraps charges for second carers
10:20am Thursday 5th April 2012 in News
DISABLED pensioners and relatives have welcomed a county council U-turn that will save them £1m a year in home care charges.
From August last year the council had started charging for a second carer for those in need of two carers per visit.
Those in need of “double-up care” include the severely disabled who need to be lifted, for example from bed into a bath, and dementia sufferers with challenging behaviour.
The move meant the average increase in bills for the 105 vulnerable adults who paid the full cost of their home care was a hefty £170 per week, or £8,886 per year.
But the Cabinet on Monday overturned the decision to charge for a second carer, following an announcement by council leader, Ken Thornber, last month that £1m would be set aside to make the means-tested system fairer.
The council climbdown means about £500,000 in fees collected this financial year will be repaid and outstanding debts written off.
Mr Thornber said he had listened to protests by Alan Downden, Liberal Democrat opposition spokesman for adult social care, and others.
They included Chris Chalk, whose 85-year-old mother had both legs amputated and relies on two carers who visit four times daily. Her weekly home care bill rocketed from £262 to £462.
Mrs Chalk, from Chandler’s Ford, said: “My mother and I are delighted both for her and for others similarly affected. “Many councils would remain intransigent once a policy is implemented, no matter how poorly thought- through. We are grateful that Hampshire County Council has the good grace to review and overturn this unfair charge.”
Dr David Kerridge, who has had one leg amputated and is confined to a wheelchair, also welcomed the council rethink. His weekly care bill rose from £130 to £210.
The Romsey-based retired university lecturer, who spoke at the last full council meeting, said: “It is a great relief. It restores one’s faith in councillors.”
Meanwhile, Mr Dowden said: “I first raised this issue at Cabinet on February 3 after being contacted by many disabled clients who felt they were being treated unfairly.
“It is only right and fair that charges should be refunded to this small group of people with such high levels of need and support.”
A report to Cabinet said there were 754 disabled adults across the county who receive double-up home care organised by the council. Of those, 105 paid the full cost, 256 made a partial contribution, and 350 received free care.
The council’s revised policy means where a second carer is required for health and safety reasons, for example to lift a person, there will be no charge.