The Welsh Assembly Government’s (WAG) introduction of a new £50 weekly cap on charges for non-residential care services is a “significant step forward” in the fight to abolish all such charges, and say campaigners.
In a third of Welsh council areas, medicine disabled and older people who currently pay the maximum charge will save an average of £7,000 a year, while those in other areas will save an average of £2,000 to £5,000 a year.
Current weekly limits on charges vary from £16.20 in Rhondda Cynon Taf to £200 in Neath Port Talbot, while some councils have no upper limits, which the Welsh government said was “clearly unfair and unacceptable”.
The new measure will be implemented from 11 April. It follows the introduction of legislation in 2009 that was aimed at ending the postcode lottery and increasing fairness and consistency in charging.
The move will heighten the contrast with the situation faced by disabled people in England, where some councils are set to increase maximum charges to as much as £250 or even £433 a week.
The Coalition on Charging Cymru (CoCC) welcomed the announcement as it celebrated its tenth anniversary.
It has been campaigning since 2001 for the complete abolition of charges, and said the new measure would mean many disabled people would be better off by thousands of pounds a year.
It said charges were “a secondary and discriminatory tax on people who require support” with tasks such as washing, dressing, and feeding.
Partly due to its campaigning, 3,000 people have been taken out of charging in Wales since 2007, with another 8,000 facing lower charges.
Rhian Davies, chief executive of Disability Wales and CoCC’s chair, said: “The ultimate prize of zero charging is yet to be achieved. However, all involved with CoCC both past and present can be proud that through persistent lobbying it has helped mitigate some of the worst effects of charging in Wales.
“Through this and previous WAG measures many disabled people, older people and carers who are often the hardest hit in any government cutbacks will now be better off than their counterparts in the rest of the UK.”
Gwenda Thomas, deputy minister for social services, said the “landmark measures” on charging would “make a real difference to the people who rely on these vital services the most”.
She said: “We are committed to doing all that we can to eradicate inequality wherever it exists – and abolishing the postcode lottery that currently exists within the social care sector is an important step forward in achieving that important aim.”
25 March 2011