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Bromley council accused of 'taxing disability'

Protests have been held over council cuts which include those to the social care budget.

Protests have been held over council cuts which include those to the social care budget.

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Vulnerable residents claim Bromley council is "taxing disability" and fear plans to drastically increase the cost of care services will stretch the over-burdened NHS.

Proposals for a daily £15 charge for day centres from May 16 and increased costs for home care will lead to more hospital admissions as disabled people forego help, warned patient group Bromley LINk.

Councillors are due to meet on Friday to discuss the plans which have been recommended for approval.

Currently the council pays for day care directly from its funds but now bosses want to give ‘personal budgets’ which will be means as well as needs tested and given as a direct payment to the individual. People will use this allowance to pay for their own services. However residents claim the service costs have gone up while the allowances have gone down.

One of the most controversial proposals is to charge those who need two carers more than those who need one.

Bromley LINk member and Secretary of Community Care Protection Group, Sue Sulis said: “This is vulnerability added tax. You should be charged the same rate whether you require one carer or two. It will go from £16 to £28 for one person because of something they have no control over.

“Hospital admissions will undoubtedly go up. It’s going to put an enormous strain the borough. It is not going to be cost-effective as people will need more care in the end. They will go into hospital sicker as they forego help and they will stay there longer.”

Subsidies for shopping and laundry services will be scrapped under the plans. People will now have to pay for these whereas previously it was free.

Viv House, from Penge, whose 86-year-old mother Greta House, suffers from Alzheimer’s Disease, said: “It’s disgusting. We are meant to be looking after our elderly but where is the respect? I was nearly in tears when I found out about the day charges going up.”

Under the plans, Mrs House will have to pay £5,000 more per year to attend the Rachel Notley Day Care Centre, Beckenham, where she plays word games and others to keep her mind active.

A member of the Biggin Hill Community Care Association, who wanted to remain anonymous, said: “This is a callous move. For some people this is their only social visit of the week.

“There is also a feeling that those who have saved all their lives and been careful with their money are penalised for that by having to pay.”

The results of the public consultation in to the changes for shopping and laundry showed respondents thought the “most vulnerable would find it too difficult to access or too expensive that they may be unable to cope with their daily lives.”

There are also fears the direct payment system could lead to abuse.

Biggin Hill resident Linda Payne, 62, who is a full-time carer for her MS sufferer husband Brian Payne, said: “Brian has lots of loving family around him but there are elderly people who will have families coming out of the woodwork offering to look after them in return for the money.

“But will the work get done? Who will check these people are being looked after?”

Mr Payne, 65, of Sutherland Avenue requires two carers and as such will, under the proposals, have to pay more than people who require one.

His wife added: “I very much doubt the council will give us more money if agencies decide to put their fees up next year. The cost of a week’s respite care is between £450 and £600. There is no way these payments will cover it.”

A council spokesman said: “Against a background of increasing demand for adult social care services at a time of constrained financial resources, services must be delivered within increasingly tight financial restraints. They must also provide flexibility within people’s individual personal budgets for them to choose the type of help and support they require.

“The meeting on Friday will look closely at the findings of the recent consultation on recommended changes to the personal budgets and contributions policy.”

The meeting takes place Friday at Bromley Civic Centre at 10am.

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