Monday, 11 June 2012

OAPs could be paid back over council fees hike

COUNCIL bosses are to pay back OAPs and disabled people who were overcharged through the controversial introduction of day centre fees – as another new charge is announced.

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Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council has admitted some could have been charged too much under the introduction of fees for day centres last October.

Pensioners and disabled people have to pay up to £119.50 to attend a day centre each day, depending on a financial assessment of how much they can afford. This used to be £4.40.

But the council has now said it will no longer take into account the person’s or their partner’s earnings and benefits following a national ruling.

A council report says: “Any person who has overpaid for their care services will be refunded.”

The fees hit headlines when it was revealed 92-year-old war Shirley war veteran Ken Lindup would have to pay £63.90 each visit to his club, which he lives above.

The council said those who stopped using services would be re-assessed – and admitted fewer people have attended centres since the charges came in.

Attendees dropped 14 per cent from October to March, 89 pensioners and 12 people with disabilities.

The report said: “Predominantly such a trend is attributable to the change in fees and charges.”

Yet it said an increase in people who choose to get cash from the council to decide where to spend on their care could mean fewer are choosing to go to centres.

Pensioners used to pay £4.40 a day for transport, entry and meals at day centres and the disabled paid nothing.

Now people with a learning disability pay £54, those with a physical disability pay £114.50 and OAPs pay £58.90. Meals are £5.

And the council is now set to also charge £6.50 for transport to centres in a move it says will net it £252,000 a year.

That means OAPs face a daily bill of £70.40 to attend a day centre.

The report says: “Across the country local authorities are facing tough times and have to make difficult decisions about the services they fund.

“In Solihull there is a commitment to protect care and support services whilst ensuring people continue to have real choice about available provision.

“Equally it is important to be realistic about the resources which are available including the contribution people pay and how much the Council continues to subsidise services.

It said: “It is unknown at this stage whether the introduction of transport charges in addition to the revised day centre charges will have an adverse effect on the numbers of services users attending day centres.”

The council is also set to end payments for taxis to day centres and bus passes.

Some 23 people have complained about the introduction of day centre charges, it said.

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