Victory for campaigners after council agrees to cover care charge hike for disabled people

Judy and Nick Taylor from Buxton. Pic: Neil Didsbury.

Judy and Nick Taylor from Buxton. Pic: Neil Didsbury. - Credit: Archant

Disabled people and their parents have welcomed a decision which means they will not have to pay extra costs for care controversially brought in by Norfolk County Council.

Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council. Pic: Norfolk County Council.

Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council. Pic: Norfolk County Council. - Credit: Norfolk County Council

The Conservative-controlled council reduced the minimum income guarantee (MIG) last year, which meant disabled people aged 18 to 64 faced having to pay more for their care.

The council said that brought the charges in line with government levels and would save the authority £3m.

But campaigners fought the rise, which they said would leave disabled adults even more isolated, but the council insisted it was necessary due to “financial restrictions”.

However, the county council, having initially refused to change tack, agreed in March that the second phase of the charging changes would be mitigated, using money the government had given the council over the impact of coronavirus.

Steve Morphew, leader of the Labour group at County Hall. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Steve Morphew, leader of the Labour group at County Hall. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2018

That meant families would not have to pay for the changes for 16 weeks, as the government cash would cover the costs. With those 16 weeks almost up, the council has now agreed to keep covering the cost for “the foreseeable future” - hoping a forthcoming green paper will properly tackle the issue of the cost of adult social care.

However, the council says that the £3m cost will mean savings have to be made elsewhere in adult social care.

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Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council, said: “Last year, we agreed to revise the minimum income guarantee, which is used to calculate care payments, to bring Norfolk in line with the government’s approved level.

“As the pandemic struck, we took the decision to mitigate our 2020 changes to the minimum income guarantee for four months, recognising the impact that the pandemic might have on people and the services they receive. This was covered by some of the government’s COVID-19 funding.

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“The government has indicated that it will look at the issue of funding reform as part of national changes and we are calling on ministers to bring that forward, as soon as possible.

“Provided this is done within a reasonable timescale, we will continue this mitigation for the foreseeable future, subject to the financial demands on the council.”

Nick and Judy Taylor, from Buxton, whose son Charlie has Down’s Syndrome, said they were pleased at the decision. But Mr Taylor said: “It’s what we’ve been fighting about for years, so we are pleased, but it is tempered by the fact that the money will have to be saved from elsewhere in adult social care.”

Marilyn Heath, from Horstead, has a daughter Sara, who has Down’s Syndrome. She said it was a victory for the Disability Network Norfolk Group, which had been fighting the council over the issue, but that the impact of the first phase still needed to be addressed.

Steve Morphew, leader of the opposition Labour group at County Hall, which had campaigned over the changes, said: “There was no justification for imposing this in the first place.

“COVID-19 only showed the truth that was apparent if they had listened to the families from the beginning. To extend, until the Green Paper finally appears, was what we argued for as fair and sensible.

“To put families through all this anguish was cruel and heartless. We showed them how to find the money at budget time but they rejected it.

“To put themselves in this position now shows just how weak the leadership of the county council is.”

“Great news for the families and congratulations to them. But phase one that was implemented and wrong has still not been righted.”

Tim Adams, adult social care spokesman for the Liberal Democrat group, said: “Having previously called for an urgent review of how Norfolk County Council charges disabled people for their care, we can only partly welcome this step and now repeat that demand again.

“We have seen no commitment to return the minimum income guarantee to its initial level before these cuts started, nor to reverse the dreadful decision to include Personal Independence Payments in the calculations.

“It would therefore be insincere for Norfolk County Council to claim this is evidence of how well we want to treat disabled people in Norfolk.

“We must now see a long term commitment to disabled people in Norfolk, and we must now get rid of the systemic disadvantage the council has created.

“The minimum income guarantee needs not only to be increased, both by the government and the council, but to also keep pace with inflation, as it never has done before these cuts were made.”

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