CARERS have reacted with fury to council demands for disabled people to pay huge rises in respite care.
Increases range from £25 to more than £100 for a week’s respite care after 200 people received letters from Rotherham Borough Council changing the way their income and allowances are assessed.
Many families previously paid nothing and scores of shocked carers called the council’s respite centres—which offer short breaks for people caring for the disabled—to cancel their bookings for places.
The council says that the move rectifies a mistake in the way it works out what people pay and the old system was too generous in what was taken into account.
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But angry pensioner George Valentine (72), who cares for his 38-year-old disabled daughter with his wife, aged 70, at their Rotherham home, said: “This was a huge bombshell.
“It was free for us and now they want £85 a week or £12 and a few pence a night.
“It’s a disgrace. They’re after every last penny.
“Many carers are in tears, heartbroken because they just can’t pay it.
“We give our lives caring for our loved ones at home. It’s the only bit of respite we get.
“The decent thing to do would be to call a meeting of all carers and get a council representative to come and discuss it.”
Another carer said: “It was appalling the way they sent out these letters.
“They have created fear.
“Many carers are pensioners who have adult children and already subsidise their care doing what they can to improve their quality of life.
“It was a complete lack of communication.
“It just seems so alien because the council have been so supportive in the past.”
Rotherham Carers’ Forum is organising a meeting to discuss the issue and council workers’ union UNISON has also raised concerns.
A council spokeswoman said that there were no increases in charges.
She went on: “What has happened is that each customer has had a review of the expenses they claim against charges.
“In effect, following a review of the allowances that were being claimed, we have disallowed some expenses that were not appropriate.
“An example may be a customer claiming that expenses for leisure items i.e DVDs and CDs, should be offset against their income when a calculation of what they can afford to pay is made.
“These allowances were not being applied fairly across the service and were incorrect.
“The amounts that have been suggested are misleading as they suggest that customers use the scheme every night of the year—most use it for around once or twice per week.
“As an example, a customer receiving £250 per week in benefits would pay around £11 for a night at a centre.
“There is a financial assessment of each individual customer and they are then told how much they would have to pay for a night of respite.
“This is a statutory scheme that applies right across the country and is not defined by Rotherham.
“The average payment for a night of respite (bed/board/care) would be £11 and this still represents exceptional value.
“The amount that it costs the council is an average of around £150-£200 per night. The amount paid by the customer is on average £11 per night.
“These charges are fair.”