Council U-turn sees pay freeze to ‘appalling’ rise in disability care costs
PUBLISHED: 09:00 27 March 2020 | UPDATED: 09:00 27 March 2020
A council has U-turned after being branded “unreasonable and unsympathetic” for refusing to delay a planned increase to disabled adults’ care bills during coronavirus.
Norfolk County Council reduced the minimum income guarantee (MIG) last year, which means disabled people aged 18 to 64 will have to pay more for their care.
Campaigners fought the rise, which they say will leave disabled adults even more isolated, but the council insisted it was necessary due to “financial restrictions”.
The first batch of care bills were sent to families this week, despite advocates saying provision was reduced due to some care staff being forced to self-isolate.
In an email sent on Wednesday, March 25, council leader Andrew Proctor stated: “The service being provided to the user is unaffected.
“I am not intending to make any changes to the implementation of the current plans.”
But after campaigners called on the council to reconsider the rise, a government cash injection was announced - meaning the rise will go ahead but will not be paid for by disabled adults or families.
The council said it wanted to ensure its resources were used to “support everyone” it has a responsibility for.
Marilyn Heath, from Disability Network Norfolk, called initial plans for the rise “unreasonable and unsympathetic”.
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Mrs Heath, 68, who cares for her 23-year-old daugher Sara, who has severe learning difficulties, added: “We still have issues but 12 weeks of nobody paying it has got to be a victory for us. But it’s just appalling they should have been thinking about it at this time.
“The leader wrote that there’s been no impact on care - how can he say that? It’s just ludicrous. The load that we carry is great enough - it’s disgraceful.”
And the council’s Labour group leader Steve Morphew said: “I wrote to Andrew Proctor proposing a delay to avoid the inevitable backlash just as we are asking people to pull together.
“His refusal was spectacularly ill-judged. Any gesture has been spoiled by bad feeling that cost increase letters were sent unnecessarily and upset caused.”
A county council spokesman said: “Day by day we are facing a rapidly changing situation in how we work hard to respond to the exceptional circumstances the whole country is facing as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We want to ensure our resources are used to support everyone we have a responsibility for. New money from government is allowing us to compensate for the effect of the MIG changes for the next four months, when the situation will be reviewed.”