3rd January 2011.
Dear Councillor Shelton,
Consultation on Fairer Contributions towards the costs of social care services from 2011
I am writing regarding the proposal to remove the cap on domiciliary care charges so that those with the highest needs, and with a specified level of savings, will have to pay the full cost of their care services from April 2011.
The Leader of Kingston Council appeared on Channel 4 News on 21st October 2010 and stated: “We won’t be targeting savings or cuts on people with real severe need.” There would, however, appear to be a change in the Council’s policy since the Leader made this remark on national tv. In fact, those with highest needs and savings over a £23,250 are the very service users who are going to be targeted to the greatest extent.
Whilst the consultation document and questionnaire which has been sent out repeatedly refers to the fact that the process is at “consultation stage”, under Item 5 of the Questionnaire, headed “Full cost contributions”, the second statement reads: “The council needs to move to full cost contributions scheme and intends to do this for those who can afford it by April 2011.” The use of the word intends implies that this is what is going to happen, and does not convey the message that the proposals are still at consultation stage. The message from the Council is misleading.
Many elderly and disabled service users remain in their own home, and have been enabled to do so by the previous initiatives of Kingston Council to encourage them to remain independent. There are many reasons why service users choose to remain in their own homes; it may be because they have experienced bad care in residential or nursing homes, or wish to remain in familiar surroundings where they feel safe and secure, feel they are part of the real world by being outside institutional care, or may wish to spend their final years in their own homes. For whatever reason, those who are disabled or elderly, or both, are already incurring the high costs of remaining in their own homes in the form of costs incurred with heating, lighting, telephone bills, household insurances, cost of food, water rates, Council Tax, property maintenance, household necessities and equipment, etc. In most cases, it would be far cheaper for these service users to be in residential or nursing care, but because this arrangement is not suitable to meet their individual needs, and enable them to remain independent and give them a sense of being a valued part of society, they choose to incur the additional costs of remaining in their own homes.
In the case of service users living in their own homes who have savings above the stated level, and have high care package needs, is the Council going to offset the additional costs the service users are already incurring whilst remaining in their own homes against increases in their care package fees from April 2011? To pay the full cost of services is going to add a tremendous burden upon some service users both in terms of finances and in terms of their self-esteem and independence. It would appear that those with highest needs will be hit with the maximum increase in their fees, particularly if they have been careful with their savings and accrued a sum over and above that which is being taken into account. This does not seem a fair way to increase the fees. I’m sure most people would not mind paying an increased amount for the services they receive, but it is a stigma that those who have the highest needs and savings above the level stated, are going to have to pay the maximum charges and be disadvantaged in respect of those in residential care. A high price to pay for their independence!
The Council should take into account the costs of living at home, and factor in these additional costs, in reaching a charge on future home care packages, particularly as the costs incurred on heating, lighting, etc. are all increasing at a rate above inflation and causing further hardship.
The message given out is that those with the highest needs, through no fault of their own, are going to feel that a price is being put upon them as a result of their disability. I would ask the Council Members to imagine how this must feel to both the service users and their carers and families, who are already under a tremendous strain as a result of their individual circumstances. It implies a tax on disability, with a higher price being paid by those with the most severe needs and who have savings! Kingston Council have previously had an excellent reputation in regard to the services provided and their policies to encourage independent living. The new proposals appear to be a retrograde step.
At the consultation meeting I attended the Council were unable to produce projected savings as a result of the proposed new charging scheme. How can one make objective conclusions if no figures are available at all. Other authorities have been able to produce the relevant figures at their consultation meetings. The projected savings should be made available at the two additional consultation meetings which have now been arranged.
What other savings have been explored, before hitting front-line services? If, at this late stage, no figures are available, how can the Council have any idea as to where the largest savings need to be made and to what extent each individual service will need to make cuts to meet the required overall savings?
Are the Council continuing with their subsidy of the Freedom Pass Scheme? Whilst I think the National Bus Pass should be retained, I would suggest that to continue to subsidise rail travel, trams, Docklands Light Railway and water bus subsidies are a luxury in this current climate, when front-line services are having to be cut or the fees increased.
The proposed new charging policy is not equal or “fairer” as those with greater needs will be paying more than those with fewer needs, and even more so if they have savings above the prescribed level. It would appear to be a tax on disability and sends out the message that the Council is intent on putting these charges into place regardless of the moral and human issues involved.
It would have been far more helpful if the Council representatives at the consultation meetings had been able to produce projected savings as a result of their proposed measures, and would have displayed an openness and genuine intention to work together to achieve a satisfactory outcome for both the Authority and its service users and their carers and families.
I hope that you will take these points into consideration when reaching your decision on the proposed new charging policy.
Kath [surname provided]