BY JAMES TWOMEY
A town hall has finished its consultation on whether to increase charges on adult social care in what has been called a “tax on disability” by concerned residents.
Greenwich council’s consultation finished on July 28, with the findings still to be assessed before a decision is made, but residents are worried about the trend that the consultation is setting and hope to persuade the council to move away from increasing social care charges.
Greenwich resident Anne Novis is a service user, and the chairwoman of Inclusion London.
She will be affected by the proposals, and said: “Disabled people’s human right to independent living is under threat in Greenwich, because of the council’s harsh proposals to increase charges disabled and older people pay for social care.
“Greenwich council says it needs to raise social care charges to offset the government cuts to local authority funding.
“However, we do not believe taxing and taking money from disabled people, who are least able to pay, is the best way to achieve this aim.
“Trying to raise money by targeting those who are most harshly affected by austerity is wrong.
“The result will be to push more disabled people into poverty, and will prevent many of us from enjoying our human right to live independently and be included in the community.
The council could use some of its £13 million reserves, but they refuse this option because of Brexit.
“If the charges do increase, I would be unable to afford to pay, which means I would have to reduce my care, which would, in turn, mean I would have to stop my voluntary work.”
A report from disability charity Scope UK found that, on average, disabled adults had extra disability costs of £583 a month.
Kate Brown, a disabled Greenwich resident, said in an open letter to the council: “I became a wheelchair user after I was stabbed in a homophobic attack which resulted in a stroke three days later.
“I am now a pensioner and benefits are my only income. I pay £65 care charges per week, and with the changes the council wants to make, this could increase to £105 per week or more.
“This sounds over dramatic, but if I had to cut down to pay the extra, it would be on food, or the clothes and bedding that I need as I am double incontinent.”
Cllr Averil Lekau, cabinet member for adult social care and health, said: “Hundreds of people have had their say on a range of proposals that we are consulting on, and I have personally met and listened to residents who may be affected.
“The consultation has now closed, and all the responses will be collated, analysed and used to inform our decision. Since 2010, our funding has reduced by a staggering £1,400 per household, totalling some £125 million, largely as a result of funding that the Government has taken away from us.
“At the same time, the population has grown, and more people have had to use our adult social care services. Many other councils have already increased the amount they are charging – something we have resisted for years.
“Unfortunately, we are at the end of the line and have to make some incredibly difficult decisions.
However, whatever changes are brought in, we will make sure that there will be rigorous assessments so that the people who are least able to afford any increases are protected.
“I note that the new Prime Minister has pledged to fix the social care crisis – I very much hope that this means putting an end to austerity and giving councils the money they need to provide crucial services for their most vulnerable residents.”