Norfolk councillors told personal care budget switch will be straightforward
A major shake-up of social care payments in Norfolk which will see more than 4,300 people switch to personal budgets will be 'reasonably straightforward' to achieve, councillors have been told.
From September Norfolk County Council will begin the switch-over, which is part of a national drive to get more people to have more control over the care they receive by 2013.
James Bullion, the council's assistant director of community services, told councillors the move will pave the way for changes in how day services are provided across Norfolk including at the Essex Rooms and Silver Rooms in Norwich.
'Services will change and adapt, but we are confident we will come out with a in-house service that is sustainable and based on people's choices,' Mr Bullion said.
The changes are part of a �1.8m savings package which will also see around 600 people currently receiving free county council-run day-centre services and home care paying around �15 a session.
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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.
And there will also be a flat 2pc increase in charges. B
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ut 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.
But Wells councillor Marie Strong said she had heard concerns from local day centre providers that the changes would mean less certainty over funding and it was important that the council made sure that they still received proper support during the switch to personal budgets.
'The day care volunteers are very concerned about the payments and how they can continue to run services such as the toe-nail clinic, if they are not getting the money,' she said. 'If we do not care for these care volunteers we will lost a vital resource.'
Conservative councillor Ian Monson asked what checks and balances were in place for both individuals and the council to see that the money was being properly spent.
'How will people know if they have overspent, or haven't spent enough,' Mr Monson said. 'Are people going to be issued statements every month so that they can see what's happening?'
The meeting heard that clients were encouraged to put any direct payments into a separate bank account so that it could be monitored.
Harold Bodmer, the council's director of adult and community services said take up of personal budgets was generally slower among older people, but this was particularly pronounced in Norfolk, where there was still confusion about the system.
'It isn't that personal budgets don't work, it's that we haven't yet got enough of them in Norfolk,' Mr Bodmer said. 'There are some still myths around as well. People could choose to take some of the cash as a direct payment, but what happens a lot is that people take some of this as a cash payment and some as a direct service.'