County council promises fairness over social care charge increases

Fairness will be the cornerstone of increases of charges to society’s most vulnerable members, leaders of North Yorkshire County Council – which is seeking to reduce its budget by £169m – have stated.

Residents are being urged to voice their views on controversial proposals by North Yorkshire County Council, which has highlighted how increasing life expectancy and rising in mental ill-health combined with inadequate Government funding has led to a social care crisis.

To cut costs, the authority is asking residents to consider if people who need more than one carer should pay for the extra care and whether contributions towards transport to places such as day care centres should be significantly raised.

When the proposals were unveiled last month, opposition councillors said while they appreciated the authority was facing mounting social care costs, they found the cost-cutting plans “a bridge too far”.

But Councillor Michael Harrison, executive member for health and adult services, said adult social care remained the largest area of spend for the council, and it had to continue to look at “all areas of expenditure and any income the council receives” to offset costs.

He said: “In reviewing the contributions that people may be asked to contribute we will ensure the principles around fair charging are applied – namely that a person should only be required to pay what they can afford, that we are clear and transparent so people know what they will be charged, and we apply any charging rules equally so those with similar needs or services are treated the same.”

An officers’ report to the health and adult services committee highights while the authority is charging £2.70 a day for transport to and from day care centres, it faces costs of up to £60 for a taxi journey from Hawes to Leyburn or up to £10 for a bus from Tadcaster to Selby.

The report highlights how residents in neighbouring Cumbria are charged £1.50 per mile, up to £22.50, up to £2.50 per bus journey in Durham and £10 for journeys over 19 miles in Lancashire.

The report states: “We are not proposing to pass on the full cost of transport to people. However, we will consult on an increase to the current contribution rate.

“We have considered introducing a charge based on the distance people may have to travel, but feel that is not reasonable in a rural county like North Yorkshire. We will also seek people’s views on continuing with a flat rate, but based on a charge per journey, rather than per day.”

The second part of the consultation will examine proposals “to ensure that the
full cost of care is taken into account” when assessing any personal
contribution towards it.

The officers’ report states the authority would seek to ensure alternatives to second and other carers are explored, taking into account innovations in equipment, technology or different moving and handling approaches.

The public consultation is due to be launched on October 29 and run until January 21.