No to care charges hike — Greenwich open letter

Greenwich no charges

No to care charges increases – WinVisible letter and submission

Royal Borough of Greenwich     Adult social care consultation 2019

Open letter to Cllr Averil Lekau, Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Health averil.lekau@royalgreenwich.gov.uk

And submission to carecharges@royalgreenwich.gov.uk

Dear Cllr Lekau and Naomi Alexander, RBG Adult social care consultation 2019

We write to strongly oppose the social care charges increases proposed by Royal Borough of Greenwich (RBG), including: increasing the hourly charge from £13.35 to £15/hr; increasing the cost of community meals; increased charges in sheltered housing and supported accommodation; and lowering assumed disability-related expenses (DREs) from £15.30 to £10 a week (unless we can show receipts to prove that our DREs are more than £10).  Particularly damaging is taking up to 50% of our benefits for night needs, to pay for daytime care.

We are a multi-racial self-help group of disabled women, started in 1984 and active London-wide and nationally. We are supporting a number of Greenwich residents who are very worried about the serious impact that the proposed increased charges would have on them and on family carers.

Our member Kate Brown says:

“I became a wheelchair user after I was stabbed in a homophobic attack which resulted in a stroke three days later. I am now a pensioner and benefits are my only income. I pay £65 care charges per week, and with the changes RBG want to make, this could increase to £105 per week or more. This sounds overdramatic, but if I had to cut down to pay the extra, it would be on food, or the clothes and bedding that I need as I am double incontinent.  I still get Disability Living Allowance as I was born in 1948. DLA is made up of a mobility component and care component. The mobility component is paid totally to Motability to pay for my wheelchair accessible car. The care component is £87.65 which RBG says I have to pay £65 of, towards my PA’s wages each week, leaving me with £22.65 to pay for any extra help I might need. If RGB increase my contribution I will have NO DLA at all.

“I received funding from the Independent Living Fund (ILF) for 28 years. When the ILF came in, my son was 15 and it changed his life.  He was in a documentary called “Too Young to Care”, but with the ILF he didn’t have to be my carer anymore.  The ILF ended in 2015.  When RBG took over, I had an assessor who checked the facts and I got full funding. But the following year I had a visit from a social worker who cut my hours from 168 a week to 27 ½ in just a 20-minute visit. The review was full of incorrect information. During the interview she said my family should help me and I should be ashamed to have strangers looking after me. I felt that the social worker was suspicious and homophobic towards me. The loss of hours has really cut down how many times I can go out of my home.

“The cuts have made a great deal of difference to my family, not just to me. My son and grandson live in Abbey Wood, 15 minutes away from me by bicycle. Their lives have drastically changed since the loss of my PA hours. My grandson works in Dartford in a warehouse on the late shift and gets home at 11.30pm each night. I have had 2 bad seizures recently, one which landed me in hospital for 5 days. My son feels scared to leave me yet needs to be there for his son too — when my son is with me, my grandson has no hot dinner and no one to talk to when he gets in late.  I feel so guilty, but it’s not my fault.”

We know the terrible stress that charges increases in other boroughs have caused to everyone who gets disability benefits.  We have double pressure — from the charges and at the same time, the threat of losing our benefits completely as a result of constant reassessments.  Many of us have been forced to drop out of services.  One woman we helped, was being taken to court for the debt as financial assessments had resulted in charges of £75 to £100 per week — more than her entire care benefit and cutting into her ESA.  High amounts are also charged to women in mental distress who rely on therapy sessions to stay out of psychiatric hospital. Women with learning disabilities or visually impaired no longer have anyone to read letters and track bills, and end up facing bailiffs for debts they are not even aware of.

Why can’t Greenwich follow the example of Labour Hammersmith & Fulham (H&F) which abolished homecare charges in April 2015 after taking a lead from disabled people in their borough?  They were also able to ring-fence the Independent Living Fund money.  They did it by looking at their budget to prioritise the welfare of disabled residents, cutting unnecessary publicity, securing £310m from developers by renegotiating cheap sell-offs by the previous Tory Council, and securing extra government funds for social care.  H&F said: “The exceptional H&F record has been achieved against a backdrop of massive financial pressure from the government, including a 54 per cent cut in real terms in government grant since 2010.”

Scope’s report The Disability Price Tag 2019 found that, on average, disabled adults have extra disability costs of £583 a month – but Greenwich wants to lower the assumed disability-related expenses (DREs) amount to £10 a week, unless we have the receipts to prove that our expenses are more than that.  It is stressful and almost impossible to produce paperwork to prove all our DREs.  Women with head injury, memory loss, in pain and fatigue are expected to be accountants, tracking our every expense.  We are expected to be aware of every access need compared to a non-disabled person, when disability costs are normal to us.

The knock-on effect of care charges is to increase women’s financial and physical dependence and therefore the risk of domestic violence and abuse by people we rely on when we don’t have services — who then take advantage financially and sexually.  Shamefully, councils expect women to be too stressed or ill to be able to challenge the discrimination of charges, discriminatory because the greater our needs, the more of our benefits we pay for care.

Care charges hit women hardest.  We already bear 86% of austerity cuts, we are the majority reliant on services, the majority of exhausted unwaged carers filling the gaps, and the majority of low-paid carers under more pressure as services shrink.

Charging is class-biased.  Well-off people have always been able to pay someone else to care for them.  But working class people, including most families of colour, whose jobs pay less no matter how valuable, and therefore have lower incomes, cannot afford private care agencies.

Coping with disability and ill-health is hard work.  Disabled people, including women pensioners who have worked hard their whole lives — often caring for others, as well as supporting them financially by doing without — are entitled to free support services, day centres and other services.

It is shameful that a Labour council is ready to make vulnerable people pay more rather than put pressure on central government or follow examples such as H&F.  That’s why so many people voted for Jeremy Corbyn to lead the Labour Party, to end Labour enforcing Tory policies and their hostile environment against disabled people and claimants.

Signed:

Kate Brown, Claire Glasman, Cheryl Mclennan

 


Letter copied to:  Cllr Christine Grice, Finance & Resources christine.grice@royalgreenwich.gov.uk

Clive Stanley Efford – MP for Eltham

Teresa Pearce – MP for Erith and Thamesmead

Matthew Thomas Pennycook – MP for Greenwich and Woolwich

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