First of all on behalf of Essex Mencap and the Essex Carers Network, we would like to extend a big thank you to everyone who responded to our survey on the revised charging system introduced by the County Council. It highlighted some alarming situations.
After analysing the replies, we made representations to the Council on your behalf. A link to our letter and the reply received from Councillor John Spence can be found at the end of this post. For convenience, we summarise the correspondence below.
- complained that the alleged consultation last year with people who use the services was inadequate, not comprehensive and misleading;
- stated that the Council’s decision was not being implemented fairly;
- suggested that people with a high level of disability were being hardest hit by the new charges;
- argued that the Council had a responsibility to consult carer organisations before making changes of this nature and that they had failed to do so;
- expressed concern that some people were receiving bills without an explanation of any increases which have been made;
- warned that the scale of the increases being imposed was causing great hardship, stress and anxiety to both service-users and carers and could lead to the curtailment of valuable lifestyle activities.
The Council replied that they –
- are complying with minimum statutory requirements in relation to charges, especially ensuring that people still receive the national level of income after charging;
- wrote to 9000 people last October about the proposal to revise the charges and published details on their website:
- would not routinely pay for gardening or line rental for a telephone but may pay for items such as the extra cost of clearing a pathway to ensure a person can safely access their property or for a telephone line where it has been installed for the sole purpose of supporting the operation of an alarm call system;
- do not accept that the most disabled people have the highest level of disability related expenditure;
- sent adults paying a charge a breakdown of the calculation, inviting anyone who disagrees with the assessment to contact them;
- have a role to meet eligible needs (not preferences).
Whilst we are challenging some parts of the Council’s letter, our advice to you is initially to contest any increases in charges which you consider unreasonable. A schedule of the items of disability related expenditure which the government consider should be taken into consideration when determining charges is set out below. Note, however, that the expenditure must be directly related to the disability to qualify. We also ask that you contact your local County Councillor (you can find contact details on the Council’s website – www.essex.gov.uk . Click on Your Council and then, under Councillors click Find your Councillor). Phone us if you are unable to do this. Explain to the Councillor how your charge has increased, why you think it is unfair, what disability related expenditure you have to incur and the consequences for your loved one of the increased charge. It might even be a good idea to invite him or her to meet you at your home so you can really demonstrate the problem.
Although we have, at this time, not directly contacted the media, it is possible that we shall at some time be asked if any member would be prepared to speak to the Press or local radio about their situation. A real life story is always more powerful than a campaigning communication from us so please do let us know if you would be willing to talk about your particular situation.
A comprehensive report detailing the outcome of our survey, including all comments which were made (with names removed) has been prepared. It is quite large but we can email a copy to you on request. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
find our letter to the council here: letter to council
find Cllr Spence response here: response from council
Extract from the Government’s Care and Support Guidance, 2017
40) In assessing disability-related expenditure, local authorities should include the following. However, it should also be noted that this list is not intended to be exhaustive and any reasonable additional costs directly related to a person’s disability should be included:
(a) payment for any community alarm system
(b) costs of any privately arranged care services required, including respite care
(c) costs of any specialist items needed to meet the person’s disability needs, for example:
- i) Day or night care which is not being arranged by the local authority
(ii) specialist washing powders or laundry
(iii) additional costs of special dietary needs due to illness or disability (the person may be asked for permission to approach their GP in cases of doubt)
(iv) special clothing or footwear, for example, where this needs to be specially made; or additional wear and tear to clothing and footwear caused by disability
(v) additional costs of bedding, for example, because of incontinence
(vi) any heating costs, or metered costs of water, above the average levels for the area and housing type
(vii) occasioned by age, medical condition or disability
(viii) reasonable costs of basic garden maintenance, cleaning, or domestic help, if necessitated by the individual’s disability and not met by social services
(ix) purchase, maintenance, and repair of disability-related equipment, including equipment or transport needed to enter or remain in work; this may include IT costs, where necessitated by the disability; reasonable hire costs of equipment may be included, if due to waiting for supply of equipment from the local council
(x) personal assistance costs, including any household or other necessary costs arising for the person
(xi) internet access for example for blind and partially sighted people
(xii) other transport costs necessitated by illness or disability, including costs of transport to day centres, over and above the mobility component of DLA or PIP, if in payment and available for these costs. In some cases, it may be reasonable for a council not to take account of claimed transport costs – if, for example, a suitable, cheaper form of transport, for example, council-provided transport to day centres is available, but has not been used
(xiii) in other cases, it may be reasonable for a council not to allow for items where a reasonable alternative is available at lesser cost. For example, a council might adopt a policy not to allow for the private purchase cost of continence pads, where these are available from the NHS.