Windfall 'dwindled away' on care charges

SUE SKINNER It was the sort of windfall which could have paid for a few home comforts or been put away for a rainy day.Instead, a disabled woman saw a £28,000 bequest start to dwindle away after being required to pay for the help she needs with everyday tasks like washing and dressing.

SUE SKINNER

It was the sort of windfall which could have paid for home comforts or been put away for a rainy day.

Instead, a disabled woman saw a £28,000 bequest dwindle after being required to pay for the help she needs with everyday tasks like washing and dressing.

Janice Simons, 50, from King's Lynn, who has had rheumatoid arthritis since she was a child, relies on a wheelchair and daily visits by carers.

In August 2001, she started her first job as a disability development officer at Norfolk County Council's social services department in Lynn.

She inherited the money from an aunt the following year and informed her employers, who told her she would be charged for her home care - prev-iously free, as her savings had exceeded £21,000.

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Miss Simons went to a review panel and referred her case to the Ombuds-man but the watchdog found there had been no maladministration. And the council maintained it had acted within government guidelines.

Miss Simons bought a specially-adapted car with the cash but said the rest had "dwindled away" on her care charges and bills.

"I got to the stage where I didn't open the bills as it got too stressful," she said. "That money should have been a little bit of comfort and security for my old age that other people take for granted."

Miss Simons is on sick leave and receiving her care free again but says she fears the same thing will happen if she saves any money in future. She has been supported by the West Norfolk Disability Information Service, which she helped to set up.

WNDIS co-ordinator Jonathan Toye said: "It boils down to the simple thing that if you're a disabled person you get penalised and if you're not, you don't. I think it's important that it's made public knowledge that this sort of thing happens."

James Rolfe, the council's assistant director for performance, finance and efficiency, said: "We cannot comment on individual cases. How-ever, under government guidelines, we make a charge for services if people are financially able to pay for their care. Our charging policy complies with the Fairer Charging Guidance issued by the Department of Health.

"Because the adult social services budget is set based on a preset level of income, if we did not charge people who are able to contribute to their care, then other people in Norfolk would miss out on the support that they need."