Health watchdog “delighted” at decision to scrap increases to social care charges for vulnerable adults

Cambridgeshire County Council is set to mull the plans.

Cambridgeshire County Council is set to mull the plans. - Credit: Archant

A decision to scrap planned increases to some social care charges for vulnerable adults has been welcomed by the county’s health watchdog.

Healthwatch Cambridgeshire has said it is “delighted” that proposals for a hike in contributions for some people receiving social care have been rejected by the county council’s adults’ committee.

Healthwatch has been campaigning against the Fairer Contributions Policy changes proposed by Cambridgeshire County Council (CCC) as it believes it would have disproportionately affected vulnerable people who are already experiencing financial pressures

Sandie Smith, chief executive of Healthwatch, attended the meeting on March 8 with Sarah Conboy, of Pinpoint, and Miriam Martin from The Carers Trust to explain how carers were already under pressure from reductions in services and benefit entitlements.

Mrs Smith said: “We are delighted that the committee saw how unfair these proposals were and that the increases would have fallen on the most disadvantaged people in our community.”

She added: “We want to thank everyone who took the time to respond to the council’s consultation, as well as our colleagues from Pinpoint, the Carers Trust and the wider voluntary sector for encouraging people to have their say and championing people’s concerns. It can be very easy for people to be disheartened when a consultation like this comes along and think that their voice won’t change anything. That they cannot make a difference. We can see the difference that speaking up can make.”

More than 300 people responded to the council’s consultation into the proposed changes and more than 80 per cent disagreed with the proposal to allow the financial assessment team to take into account the Enhanced Rate of Personal Independence Payment. More than 70 per cent disagreed with the proposal to enable the team to assess individuals who receive short-term respite accommodation under residential rules. More than 60 per cent disagreed with the proposal to apply a charge for the appointee function for all service users who have capital above £1,000. Currently there is no charge for this non-statutory function.

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CCC has said it made the decision are listening to feedback and the views of those affected from its 12-week consultation.

The four proposals were: including the enhanced level of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) in financial assessments; changing the charging rules for people going into a care home for respite care; charging people for appointeeships (for help with running their finances); and that direct debits should be the default method of people paying their contribution. The committee decided not to implement the first three proposals but go ahead with the fourth.

Chairman of the committee, Councillor Anna Bailey, said: “We have carefully listened to feedback from the consultation and decided not go forward with the three main proposals as we are concerned about their impacts on some of the most vulnerable people in our communities.

“Although we face big budget pressures around Adult Social Care, we are very reluctant to ask for further contributions from people who may already be facing their own financial challenges, although other councils across the country do and the Care Act gives us the provision to do so. We will continue to work on our plans to make greater savings and meet the demands of increasing numbers of people needing support.”