Social care charges in North Yorkshire set to rise

Society’s most needy people could be charged more for the care they receive under cost-cutting proposals unveiled by North Yorkshire County Councilwhich has to slash £172m from its budget.

Council leader Councillor Carl Les said the authority would be faced with its most difficult decision in eight years of austerity as extra charges for people who need more than one carer at the same time are examined.

The council will launch a public consultation on levying the additional social care fees and increasing social care transport charges next month.

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A meeting of the authority’s care and independence scrutiny committee was told the majority of people accepted the council’s daily £2.70 charge for transport to day care centres needed to rise, given each journey costs the council an average of £18.

Officers declined to estimate how much the proposed transport charges would be, but said decisions needed to be made over whether to charge a flat rate for users, whatever distance they lived from a day care centre.

However, members did raise concerns that raising residents’ transport contributions was likely to fuel isolation among the county’s most vulnerable residents.

The meeting was told the proposal to charge people with assets above £23,350 for second and third carers would hit “the people facing the greatest need”.

At the moment, if a person needs to have two care workers at the same time, they are only charged for one.

Only a small proportion of such care recipients would pay the full costs, members heard.

North Yorkshire Independent councillor Helen Grant said while she appreciated the mounting social care costs and budget pressures the council was facing, she found the proposal “a bridge too far”.

She highlighted concerns that carers would face pressure to work alone, leading to health and safety issues.

She said: “I would hate to think just because of the complexity of their condition that they would be disadvantaged in any way. I would be very much against this being implemented.”

After the meeting, Cllr Les pledged the council would listen to people’s views in the consultation.

He said: “It is going to be a contentious set of issues, that’s why we can’t do the decision-making on our own.

“The executive and scrutiny committee have agreed we must go out to consultation. The over-arching fact is that we do have to make more savings.

“We are on a diminishing budget and we have to look at every opportunity to save money.

“Regrettably, at the moment nearly half our overall spending is going on care for the elderly which is a great challenge to have.”