By Kit Sandeman, Local Democracy Reporter
Nottinghamshire County Council plan to increase the amount disabled people are charged for social care in a bid to save millions of pounds.
The Conservative-led council said the decision was taken to help make some of the £54m in savings which the council has to find by 2022.
But the opposing Labour party said the plan will push people into a downward spiral of poverty and that families have been left ‘very anxious’.
The proposals were approved on Monday (July 9) by the council’s social care committee and an eight-week consultation will now be held.
The changes affect how much of their disability benefits people will be able to keep before the council asks them to contribute towards their care.
Before the changes, people with disabilities were allowed to keep £189 per week after rent to cover all expenses including bills and food.
It is not yet clear how much they will be allowed to keep before being charged by the county council but for some people it could go down by as much as £57 per year.
The council says the changes will mean an additional 867 people will be charged for their care, and that the scheme would save £3,873,000 a year.
But Labour spokeswoman Muriel Weisz said the scheme shows councils are not receiving adequate funding from the central government.
Councillor Weisz, who represents the Arnold South ward for Labour, said: “This proposal is to reduce the level of income that adults can keep before they contribute to their care costs.
“It includes the suggestion that for adults below 65 the amount is reduced by approximately £57 per week.
“I’ve heard from many families who have been very anxious about this for several months.
“We all know that these families have regular additional expenses when they are caring for family members with complex needs, for example, wear and tear on clothes, special diets, transport costs, and frequent hospital visits.
“Adults with complex needs are living much longer now, even compared with 30 years or so ago and this decision is pushing those already vulnerable people into a downward spiral of poverty, which they will have to face for many years ahead.
“Underlying this issue is a very real need for this Conservative government to act quickly and positively to acknowledge that almost half of adult social care budgets are required to support younger adults.
“Local authorities need adequate funding from the government. It’s not acceptable that we tackle our funding gap on the backs of people least able to speak out and advocate for themselves.”
Councillor Stuart Wallace represents the Newark East ward for the Conservatives and leads the committee which made the decision.
He said: “We are needing to meet the increasing social care needs of local people as we are all living longer.
“At the same time the council is experiencing a reduction in its overall budget from central government and as a result needs to save a further £54m savings over the next few years.
“We are reviewing the way we charge for adult social care services although more local people (54 per cent) currently don’t pay a contribution towards their care compared to those who do.
“We will be consulting the public on revising the minimum amount of weekly income a person has to cover their living costs when working out how much they can afford to pay towards their care and support.
“The council currently funds more of people’s care costs compared to many other English councils and the proposed change meets the higher rates recommended by the Department of Health.
“We are also proposing to take into account the full amount of higher disability benefit rates when working out a resident’s possible contribution in line with many other councils.
“The council will support people to ensure that they are only asked to pay for what they can afford and will continue to have the ability to waiver charges for reasons of financial difficulty or hardship under the proposals which are considered preferable to making further reductions to care and support services.”