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Herts County Council care proposals 'attack most vulnerable in our society'

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Cllr Colette Wyatt-Lowe
Cllr Colette Wyatt-Lowe

A Bishop's Stortford man with autism faces losing 15% of his weekly benefits if Herts County Council increases charges for adult social care.

The impact on the 26-year-old has been highlighted by his worried mum, Margaret Casey, who fears the authority has no concept of the consequences for her son and other vulnerable people like him.

The council is targeting how it charges for some types of community-based care services support for adults – including home care, day care and transport.

The proposals, which affect around 8,000 people across the county, include taking into account the higher rate of Attendance and Disability Living Allowances when working out how much people can afford to pay and asking people to pay more for transport to and from day services.

Mrs Casey, who asked the Independent not to name her son because of his difficulties, said: “The proposal to increase again the charges for adult social care is outrageous. It attacks the most vulnerable in our society, their carers, family and the professionals who work with them. This group of people are the least respected, most at risk, yet the most underrepresented in our society.”

She has begged councillors to reconsider: “Financially, the proposals will mean my son losing £27.45 a week in extra contributions. His weekly income will reduce to £151.45 a week. From that, he has to pay gas, electric, food, petrol and entertainment - including gym membership, trampoline and swimming costs and other activities. We already pay his telephone, broadband and TV costs of £98 a month.

“For someone living on benefits, £27 is a lot. We already have to check his bank account once or twice a week, to ensure that he has enough funds in there and regularly transfer money in to keep him afloat.

“I’m sure you will say that he should economise. For someone without autism and learning difficulties, the idea of economising is hard enough, but it’s impossible for someone who has no concept of the value of money and doesn’t know what money really is, other than this is what he uses to buy things with.”

Because of his autism, he is an avid collector of items like Lego and needs uniformity. Mrs Casey, who lives at Peregrine Close, said: “Not being able to have these items would cause him severe behaviours, self-harming and aggression toward others; it’s not worth it.”

She has told the council the proposals will also harm the families of those paying the increased charges: “By taking the whole of the DLA higher rate component, you imply that the other things that go on to support my son have no value, are optional and have no costs associated with them.”

She was blunt: “The impact for me will be more ill health caused by the stress. I’ve already had to retire early, with a resultant drop in income and reduced pension. If we break down, who’s going to do all the chasing? When will we have the space, time and money to do the really important things, like spending quality time with our son?”

The former teacher, who has campaigned on issues affecting those with learning difficulties, has raised her concerns with her Herts County Council member Colin Woodward, who alerted Cllr Colette Wyatt-Lowe, cabinet member for adult social care.

She responded: “The closing date for this consultation is December 31, 2017, so there is still time to respond; we have received several hundred responses so far and we will take these and all of the feedback received by the end of the consultation period into account.

“Any individual receiving a care service at home has been provided with a personalised breakdown of what these changes, if made, could mean for them and have been invited to respond to the consultation with their comments for consideration. Recommendations will be provided to county councillors for their consideration and a decision will be made by cabinet on February 19, 2018; councillors may decide to make all of the proposed changes, some of the changes or none of the changes based upon the feedback received. You can have your say online, visit www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/chargingconsultation.”

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