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Couple fears they could be pushed into poverty due to Norfolk County Council care cost changes

PUBLISHED: 12:34 02 May 2019 | UPDATED: 09:20 07 May 2019

Marie Cockman and her partner Neil Kinsella. Photo: Brittany Creasey

Marie Cockman and her partner Neil Kinsella. Photo: Brittany Creasey

Brittany Creasey

A couple who will be hit by controversial care cost changes for disabled people say they risk being pushed into poverty or going without essential care, because of a Norfolk County Council decision.

Marie Cockman and her partner Neil Kinsella. Photo: Brittany CreaseyMarie Cockman and her partner Neil Kinsella. Photo: Brittany Creasey

Marie Cockman, who has cerebral palsy, has had free care since the age of 17. But, at the age of 34, she faces having to pay for the first time.

That is because the Conservative-controlled county council voted to change the way it works out how much people have to pay for social care.

Changes were made over what is known as the minimum income guarantee and the amount of personal independence payments some people can keep on top of that.

For Miss Cockman, that means she will have to pay nearly £18 from July this year and more than £60 a week from next April, for the six and a half hours of care she has each week.

Miss Cockman said: “I have been having panic attacks and sleepless nights. I an really struggling to cope at the moment and next year will be even worse.”

And her and partner Neil Kinsella said they cannot afford to suddenly have to budget for that amount. They say they have no luxuries and have not had a holiday for five years.

They pair, who live off Old Palace Road in Norwich, say that, when they called the council about how they would cope, they were advised to seek help from charities or foodbanks. They have also written to Bill Borrett, who chairs the council's adult social care committee.

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Mr Kinsella, who is self-employed, said: “I am extremely angry that the Conservative council can impose these devastating charges to the essential care for severely disabled people in Norfolk like Marie.

“Vulnerable people will experience extreme financial hardship or lose their independence as a result.

“I can understand the council may have a challenge balancing the budget, but if these cuts are absolutely necessary, why were the majority of these cuts imposed on the most vulnerable. Where is the fairness?

“To rub even more salt in the wounds, why did Mr Borrett and his colleagues vote themselves a 12pc increase in their personal allowances, if finances are so tight?

“It's a disgusting decision that will devastate many disabled people's lives for years to come. It's a total dereliction of duty by Mr Borrett and the other Conservative councillors who seem oblivious to the suffering it will cause.”

Mr Borrett said he could not comment on individual cases, but a county council spokesman said: “Although people may not always get what they want, we seek to ensure they get what they need.

“We had already offered to reassess this couple's financial circumstances but have not yet received this information from them.

“We have a duty to the council taxpayer to ensure that we offer the best service we can for the money that we have.

“The changes we have made to care charging bring us into line with the government's guidelines, which are operated by most other county councils.

“We have made the decision to phase the changes over two years, to give more time for people to adjust.”

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