Hundreds of Norfolk people to face increased social care charges

Hundreds of people currently receiving free county council-run day-centre services and home care will now have to pay, under changes aimed at raising an extra �1.8m a year

The major shake-up will also see a significant push to get thousands more people on to personal care budgets.

Norfolk County Council is looking to charge around 600 people currently receiving free day services around �15 per session as part of an overhaul of the charging system. It will also see the phased ending of subsidised meals-on-wheels and increased charges for 'self-funders' - those with assets worth more than �23,000.

There will also be a flat 2pc increase in charges, but the council is to scrap fees for its Norfolk First Support scheme, which provides up to six weeks of support to elderly people recovering from falls or hospital treatment to help get them back on their feet, and make it a free service.

From September, the council will also begin a major push to get an extra 4300 people receiving care on to a 'personal budget' by the end of the year, on top of the 3,600 people currently getting them, which it believes will determine the true demand for day services ahead of any changes.

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The county council currently has 14 day centres for older people operated for people with learning disabilities, but moves to stop running them directly sparked uproar and the authority has been forced delay the proposal by a year to give more time for alternatives to be found.

And with the council predicting a drop in demand, the push is also likely to mean job losses among day centre staff from next April and could see some existing buildings sold off.

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A group made up of a majority of those who use the existing service, and members of the local community, will oversee the changes as part of a 'mutual control' process for each day centre. It has also significantly downgraded the savings it expects to make in 2012/13 from �13.8m to �5.85m, which means that other cuts may be needed from elsewhere in the adult social services budget to make up the numbers.

David Harwood, cabinet member for community services, said he was confident the shift to personal budgets could be delivered while the delay in the day centre shake up was a 'sensible step'.

'We've got a responsibility to make sure that whatever is in place works,' he said. 'We need to move this forward but we need to get it right because we are talking about vulnerable people.

'While traditional day services will doubtless shrink over time, we will ensure that help is available for those with the people with most complex needs.'

Mark Harrison, chief executive of the Norfolk Coalition of Disabled People, welcomed the decision to expand the uptake of personal budgets and also allow for more time to get the day centre proposals right.

'To a large extent they have listened to what we have said and they are re-organising accordingly,' Mr Harrison said.

Labour Group Leader George Nobbs said the delay showed the scale of cuts originally proposed was undeliverable.

Members of the council's community services overview and scrutiny panel will consider the proposals at a meeting on July 5.

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