Poorer pensioners face paying for care

Poorer pensioners who need care will get "a battered Mini of a service" while the rich get "Rolls-Royce" treatment, Age Concern warned last night. Thousands of frail elderly people will have to pay for their own care in future, according to proposals being considered by Suffolk County Council.

Poorer pensioners who need care will get "a battered Mini of a service" while the rich get "Rolls-Royce" treatment, Age Concern warned last night.

Thousands of frail elderly people will have to pay for their own care in future, according to proposals being considered by Suffolk County Council.

Councillors will vote next month on whether 3,200 people should face bills for their home care for the first time as the proportion of people who get it free is slashed from 80pc to 10pc. And a further 1,800 people will be charged for currently free services such as day care, which will cost £30 a day.

The moves have outraged pensioners' groups, but the council says the new policy will be fairer and will save it money.

In a series of cost-cutting measures that will hit the elderly hard, the council plans to:

Save £1.54m by charging 80pc of people for at least some of their home care.

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Charge people who need to be looked after by two carers at the same time for both carers' time rather than just one.

Charge £15 per session (morning, afternoon or evening) for day care that is currently free.

Replace a voluntary charge of 50p for transport to day care with a fee of £1.50 per journey.

End the subsidy on community meals and meals in day care, putting the price up by 60p a meal plus inflation over two years.

Daphne Savage, chief executive of Age Concern Suffolk, said: "It feels like the poor will get a battered Mini of a service while those who can afford to pay will get a Rolls-Royce service. Of course life is always like that, but this is making it worse...

"The concern is with home care, that people will try to manage without the support because they are trying to count the pennies.

"With day care, if you live on a limited income of £114 a week, £15 is a large percentage of that. A single pensioner may not spend much more than that on food for a week."

Jack Thain, chairman of the Suffolk Pensioners' Association, said: "I am lost for words. The great problem is that we are being asked to pay, pay, pay."

He said he was particularly upset about higher charges for community meals, which he said are "a life saver for quite a number of elderly people and some younger people as well."

The changes will save the council £2m a year - but, ironically, it will have to spend an extra £250,000 a year on doing more detailed assessments of people's finances. It is following in the footsteps of Norfolk County Council, which has already increased charges for some of its social services such as meals on wheels.

Graham Newman, portfolio holder for adult and community services, said: "These changes will bring Suffolk into line with neighbouring counties.

"The new way of asking people to pay what they can afford removes some arbitrary differences, where some people pay nothing and others with similar resources are asked to contribute. We face a stark choice between fairer charges to raise more money, or reducing the services we can offer to vulnerable people."