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Free access to Solihull care services under threat

Free access to some care services for people on benefits could be scrapped following attempts by Solihull Council to make the system fairer.

Free access to some care services for people on benefits could be scrapped following attempts by Solihull Council to make the system fairer.

The new system, which may affect around 1,500 people in the borough, will see those who would automatically receive free access to “non-residential care services” now having to undergo a financial assessment.

The move is part of the Government’s Fairer Charging Policy, which advises councils to begin financially testing everyone accessing certain services, including home care, day care and direct payments.

People on income support or pension credit guarantee would usually be able to access these services for free but council bosses now say this system is unfair because they may be receiving the same income as someone who is not on these benefits and is expected to pay for these services.

Ian James, director of adult social care at Solihull Council, said: “When changes are made to the current policy and financial assessments are processed, a number of service users could be expected to pay a contribution towards their care services who have previously paid nothing.”

Mr James said the council has been too generous in terms of its financial support for non-residential care, compared to other councils.

“All councils are required to follow statutory national guidance when operating policies for contributions to services and the vast majority of councils follow this exactly.

“There is the option, however, to operate a more generous policy than that in the national guidance and historically Solihull Council has done so. We are not aware of any other council still doing so.

“In being more generous the council is also operating a policy which is inequitable in that people with broadly similar incomes can be treated differently.”

There are 400 people in the borough who are either paying in full or a contribution towards the services, while 1,500 people either receive all services or at least one service for free.

Coun Chris Williams (Green, Chelmsley Wood) said: “The Government has got the council’s arm behind its back, forcing the council to make cuts somewhere.”

 

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