Campaigners say new figures show that council charges for personal care for disabled and older people are “out of control”.
The figures obtained by the consumer magazine Which? – through Freedom of Information Act requests – show huge differences in the sums charged by different local authorities for support in the home.
Which? said the figures showed some “striking and unfair anomalies”, while the National Centre for Independent Living (NCIL) said they proved the current situation on charging was “appalling”.
The magazine contacted 212 councils across England and Wales and received 173 replies.
It found councils such as Cheshire East, Lambeth and Oxfordshire were charging more than £15 per hour in 2009-10, while Tower Hamlets and Newham were providing free care, and Barnsley was charging £5 an hour.
It found that people living a few miles apart could be paying “wildly different amounts for the same services”.
Which? said the figures also showed that personal care charges tended to rise the further south someone lived.
Sue Bott, director of NCIL, said the figures showed the charging system was “out of control”.
She said she was “very disappointed” but not surprised that charging had not become an election issue.
She said: “I have not heard anything in the general election campaign that suggests that politicians are even aware of how much people are being charged for community care services.
“I feel very concerned because the people who are being asked to pay are those who have the least resources to be able to pay.”
She said care charges were a form of “double taxation” and the only fair solution was to abolish them.
The Which? figures reinforce NCIL’s report from 2008, Charging Into Poverty, which found that four-fifths of people surveyed who no longer used care services said charges had contributed to their decision to stop their support.
Bott said disabled and older people were being forced to decline council support because they could not afford to pay the charges.
She said: “If you speak to the Department of Health they have no idea what councils are charging. They should be taking their responsibility in this area far more seriously.
“No-one is keeping an eye on this situation. It really needs to be exposed and brought out into the open.”
29 April 2010