Reading: Cuts to council care support agreed

Cuts to council care support agreed

By Linda Fort
April 07, 2011

Social workers in Reading will begin the task of reassessing elderly and disabled people receiving care following a decision by councillors on Tuesday last week.

People with moderate needs currently receiving care will be reassessed and if their needs have not increased to critical or substantial levels they will lose their support from the council.

The full council also agreed a new charging policy for day centres which will see £4.90 a day charges to some users dropped altogether while others could see that charge go up to £43.

Opposition councillors made a last ditch attempt to make the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition running the council reconsider the proposal calling for the status quo to be maintained while drawing up plans to commission alternative support for carers and more preventative care to reduce the dependency of elderly and vulnerable people.

To make up the shortfall in the budget, Councillor Mike Orton said adjustments of £250,000 should be made to the community care budget.

He also called for the revised day centre charges to be implemented only after all the care assessments had been completed and the cabinet had seen a detailed report on the full implications of the changes.

Cllr Orton said the increased charges would hit people on “low and modest incomes”.

He criticised the plans for failing to have alternative support services in place before taking away care from those with moderate needs. He said: “They talk about providing services for the vulnerable. These people are vulnerable people as well.”

Deputy leader of the council Cllr Kirsten Bayes said the actual shortfall in the budget if the council retained the status quo would be £1.5 million.

And she asked Labour councillors which services they would cut – “What libraries would you close, what swimming pools would you cut, children’s services – what would you do instead?”

She also pointed out 40 per cent of the people currently paying day centre charges would not be charged at all in future.

Opposition Cllr John Ennis said: “We are not going to apologise for providing cheap, good services for elderly and vulnerable people.”

The two Labour motions were voted down and the new levels of eligibility for care and charges were agreed.

After the meeting, lead councillor for community care, housing and health Daisy Benson said: “To refocus Reading’s non-residential adult social care services has not been an easy decision to make and I recognise that for some people this will represent a change to their current care arrangements.

“Overall however, and taking account of the current economic circumstances, I believe that this is the right way forward and a fairer, more equitable approach for Reading as a whole.”

She added that after the changes, the council would still be spending £40m on adult social care and investing £400,000 to support carers in recognition of “the selfless work they do”.