"Putting Residents First Is Not What You Are Doing"
Consultation results show extent of anger over home care fees
The council has voted to start charging elderly and disabled residents for home care services, despite fierce opposition to the move and concerns amongst users about how they will afford the fees.
Those who need help to carry out basic daily tasks, such as shopping, collecting their pensions or doing the laundry, will be asked to pay an hourly rate of £10 from January 2009, rising to £12.40. There will be no weekly limit to the charge.
“It will mean a lot of people who need services will refuse them, if they have to pay,” said the Manager of the Hammersmith & Fulham Carers’ Centre, Harbhajan Purewal. “Carers often have to give up work (to look after a relative) and they don’t get many benefits. They can’t afford to pay these fees,” she said "We're going to give carers encouragement - they feel they haven't been listened to".
During a twelve-week consultation which ended in May, service users and carers were asked for their opinions on the scheme. Of those who filled in the council’s questionnaire, 73% thought £12.40 was an unreasonable charge and of those who attended the various consultation events, 77% thought there should be no charge at all.
The Hammersmith & Fulham Coalition Against Community Care Cuts said: “To charge people just for being an older or disabled person in need of support is discrimination. It will lead to residents struggling alone in the short term and needing more support in the long term.”
During the consultation, many complained that those living on low incomes could not afford to pay £12.40 an hour and said they had earnt free care because they had worked all their lives.
“I think you should be ashamed of yourselves, asking us for more money. We already have small pensions. Some of us survived the War to make this country safe. I wonder now if it was worth it,” wrote one respondent.
Several people said there should never have been a 3% drop in council tax, if it meant essential services would have to be cut.
“Change the logo,” said one participant at the Elgin Resource Centre consultation. “Putting residents first is not what you are doing.”
The consultation meetings also revealed concerns about the quality of the care people are now being asked to pay for: “When asked why she was Hoovering around a pair of shoes on the floor, my carer replied: ‘I don’t bend’,” said a participant at a Hammersmith Town Hall meeting.
The council says it has to introduce home care charges because there are increasing numbers of people in the borough with more complex needs and that 97% of councils across the country already charge for these services.
The average hourly rate in London is £13.81 while in neighbouring boroughs, RBK&C charges £4.67 an hour and Ealing residents pay £12.10 an hour.
“We can no longer provide services without recouping some of the cost from those most able to pay,” says Cllr Lillis, the cabinet member for care services. “An estimated two thirds of home care users will not have to pay. People will only be charged if they can afford to. We would have liked to have been able to offer all care services free of charge, but along with councils across the country, we don't get enough government grant to do so.”
The council estimates that the new fee will allow them to raise an annual income of more than £1m.
“They (H&F) spend more on personnel officers than the money this will save,” said Cllr Stephen Cowan, the Leader of the Labour Group of Councillors.“They (the proposals) were voted through with the Leader of the Council admitting at the public meeting that he was breaking a manifesto promise not to introduce them,” he said.
The charges come into effect on 1 January 2009.
2 July 2008