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U-turn over care cost charges for people in Norfolk with disabilities is ruled out

PUBLISHED: 10:44 27 March 2019 | UPDATED: 10:44 27 March 2019

Parents with disabled children had pleaded with Norfolk County Council not to make the changes. Pic: Archant.

Parents with disabled children had pleaded with Norfolk County Council not to make the changes. Pic: Archant.

Archant

There will be no u-turn over care cost changes for people with disabilities in Norfolk, council leaders have insisted, despite a call for County Hall to use reserves to reverse its policy shift.

Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council. Pic: Neil PerryAndrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council. Pic: Neil Perry

As part of Norfolk County Council’s budget-setting process in January, the Conservative controlled authority agreed changes to the authority’s charging policy for social care – to save County Hall £4m.

That has changed the ‘minimum income guarantee’ used by the council to assess how much people aged 18 to 64 pay towards their care – which means hundreds of vulnerable people have to pay more.

The council had used a rate of £189 a week for that assessment, but has changed that to £123.45 for those aged 18 to 24 and £151.45 a week for those aged 25 to 64.

Other changes mean a benefit – the enhanced element of personal independence payments (PIP) – is now taken into account when assessing care.

Labour county councillor Brenda Jones. Pic: Labour Party.Labour county councillor Brenda Jones. Pic: Labour Party.

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

Parents had pleaded with councillors to halt the proposals and the issue was raised again at meeting of the county council’s policy and resources committee.

Labour councillor Brenda Jones said the original budget for 2019/20 had included ‘prudent’ use of reserves to help deal with added cost pressures, but that the figure had reduced to £5m.

In a reference to a comment made at the budget meeting by Conservative councillor Thomas Smith, who said the care cost changes would be reversed if the government gave the council more money, she asked council leader Andrew Proctor to now commit to using reserves to restore the minimum income guarantee for young disabled people.

But Mr Proctor said Mr Smith’s comment was “the opinion of an individual member and not representative of the intent of the administration”.

He said the change brought Norfolk in line with government guidelines and with other councils in the region. He said: “This decision was not taken lightly and was part of a wider programme of savings for 2019/20 totalling £31.9m, needed to deliver a robust budget for the next financial year.”

He added that using reserves would not be a long term solution.

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