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No u-turn over controversial move which would increase care costs for disabled people

PUBLISHED: 11:40 28 January 2019 | UPDATED: 11:40 28 January 2019

Families are urging councillors not to go ahead with changes to social care charges which they say will unfairly impact on disabled peoplel. Picture: Archant

Families are urging councillors not to go ahead with changes to social care charges which they say will unfairly impact on disabled peoplel. Picture: Archant

Archant

Controversial changes which would mean disabled people would pay more for their care remain on the table - after a bid to delay them was rejected.

As part of Norfolk County Council’s budget-setting process, councillors today discussed whether to put forward changes to the authority’s charging policy – to save County Hall £4m.

The proposal will change the ‘minimum income guarantee’ used by the council to assess how much people aged 18 to 64 pay towards their care – which will mean hundreds of vulnerable people have to pay more.

At the moment, the council uses a rate of £189 a week for that assessment, but wants to change that to £123.45 for those aged 18 to 24 and £151.45 a week for those aged 25 to 64.

Other proposals would see a benefit – the enhanced element of personal independence payments (PIP) – taken into account when assessing care.

The combined effects could lead to about 1,000 people having to pay more for care and 1,400 people paying for care for the first time.

Parents had pleaded with councillors to halt the proposals and opposition councillors tried to do so at a meeting of the council’s policy and resources committee today.

Labour leader Steve Morphew proposed that £4m be taken from a business risk reserve to delay the charges, in the hope that the government may give the council a better deal through a fairer funding review, comprehensive spending review and the publication of a long delayed Green paper on adult social care.

He said: “By using this, we would stop an important group of people from suffering more than they need to. I think that’s a can worth kicking down the road.”

He was backed by Liberal Democrat group leader Dan Roper, who said the impact on vulnerable people would be “grave”.

Conservative Bill Borrett, who chairs the adult social care committee, said the changes would bring the council into line with government policy.

He said: “It’s the level which is charged in Essex, Cambridgeshire, Suffolk, Hertfordshire and Lincolnshire.

“If we kick the can down the road and take from reserves, that would only be enough for one more year and I don’t believe there would be any further money from the government to mitigate that.”

The proposal to use the business reserve cash to delay the change was lost by nine votes to four.

Parents of disabled people who will be affected were in the public gallery.

There are £21m of savings in the council’s budget for 2019/20, but the authority recently announced a further £46m gap had widened to £71m because of pressures on adult social care and children’s services.

The committee agreed, by nine votes to four to recommend the latest budget proposals, including a 2.99pc increase in council tax, to full council.

Full council will decide the authority’s budget on February 11.

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