Council Victory Over Home Care Fees
Elderly and disabled residents to start paying for home care services
A local campaign group which represents the borough’s elderly and disabled residents says it is “extremely disappointed” after losing a legal challenge against the Council over the introduction of home care fees.
In a recent judicial review, the Hammersmith & Fulham Coalition against Community Care Cuts (HAFCAC) lost its case against H&F, launched to try and prevent the introduction of charges for home care services, such as shopping, collecting pensions or doing the laundry.
The legal judgment means that, from this week, there is an hourly fee of £10 rising to £12.40 for all home care services, with no weekly limit to the charge.
“We are not talking about charging disabled people for having luxuries,” said HAFCAC’s Chair, Kevin Caulfield. “The services/support in question assist people to meet basic human needs such as having a shower and going to the toilet, basic needs that the rest of the community would view as absolute human rights and not conditional on paying an invoice.
“This judicial decision sadly demonstrates that institutionalised discrimination against disabled and older people that require independent living support is alive and well, discrimination upheld by our legal system and underpinned by poor policy from central government,” he said.
Local disabled person, David Webb, said the charges would have a serious impact on many people. “The savings that the Council will make through charges are actually quite a small part of the Borough’s overall budget. It could make the necessary economies in other ways, and if it were really concerned about its older and disabled residents, it would have looked more closely at its budget and at reducing waste and inefficiencies.
“This is a Council that has cut Council tax since 2006, year on year by 3%, claiming this is being achieved solely by being more efficient. This policy clearly shows that claim to be false. This is a deliberate attempt to further impoverish local disabled people,” he said.
In the High Court hearing, HAFCAC accused the Council of not having properly considered the impact on disabled people before it took the decision to introduce the charges and of breaking a pre-election promise not to introduce them.
According to a HAFCAC statement, the judge, Sir Michael Harrison, criticised some aspects of the Council’s decision-making process but “held that the assessment was good enough not to be unlawful” and said he was “satisfied that the Cabinet had had sufficient regard to the broken manifesto promise, to not introduce charging, for the decision to be lawful”.
The Council say the majority of people will continue to receive free home care and only a minority will have to pay the charges.
Responding to the outcome of the judicial review, Cllr Antony Lillis, H&F Council Cabinet Member for Community and Children's Services, said: "We are very pleased at this emphatic vindication of the processes we went through in making the decision to charge. This legal challenge, while motivated by objections to the principle of charging, was never a strong one, but it has, nevertheless, taken considerable time and resources to defend. We look forward to getting on with the job of delivering the best possible service to those who rely on social care.
"Asking some people to make a contribution towards the cost of care services is a prospect that the council had hoped to avoid and is a conclusion we have reached after much consultation with our service users.
"We believe that the majority of our service users would rather the better-off minority make some contribution towards the cost of their care, than that other people have services withdrawn completely,” Cllr Lillis said.
The Council also argues that all but a handful of other local authorities charge people who use their services and that H&F will be charging less than the vast majority of its London counterparts.
The average hourly rate in London is £13.81 while in neighbouring boroughs, RBK&C charge £4.67 an hour and Ealing residents pay £12.10 an hour.
According to the Leader of the Labour Group of Councillors, Cllr Stephen Cowan, a recent email by a senior Social Services manager revealed that a number of residents had indicated they wanted to stop or reduce services, when they were presented with a bill.
The Council denied this was the case: “As of yesterday, no-one has cancelled,” said a Council spokesperson on Tuesday (January 6).
6 January 2009