Reprinted from Camden New Journal, 28 October 2021, “John Gulliver”, page 15 — some additions in square brackets.
Camden charged with lacking care
Why is Camden charging vulnerable people for home care when other Labour councils do not?
In 2017, the Care Act 2014 was replaced with legislation that allowed local authorities to charge for day and night care from people’s benefits. [The Care Act replaced previous legislation and allowed local authorities to take benefits meant for both day and night care, even if only providing some daytime support. But it did not make this charging obligatory — councils have a choice and must also recognise people’s disability expenses.]
Some councils – including Hammersmith – chose not to implement the charges.
But Camden continues to do so – and often with devastating consequences.
One woman, with breast cancer [which has spread to her lungs], told this week how she had been left with just £1.65 a day from her Personal Independence Payments (PIP) and Employment Support Allowance (ESA).
The woman, who lives in Kentish Town, is already coping with extra costs that face all cancer patients undergoing treatment. For example, she has to maintain a strict healthy diet and buy new clothes due to dramatic weight loss.
Recent research shows cancer patients can be left up to £570 a month worse off because of their diagnosis.
WinVisible has written to the council warning it is “undermining the well-being of a cancer patient by forcing her down to the minimum income level”.
In a complaint, the Kentish Town-based campaign group said: “She deserves to enjoy her life as much as possible. She is undergoing gruelling treatment. She must not be subjected to the stress and worry of charges, getting into debt and the threat of being taken to court for unpaid charges. She felt she had no choice but to bargain down the amount of hours. This is totally unacceptable as she has been assessed as needing increased support. This leaves her with £11.60 weekly for her care needs, which equates to £1.65 per day.”
Camden’s awards and contributions department determines home care charges for people with disabilities.
Despite an appeal, the woman felt she could not afford the costs and has cut her care hours to 4.5 per week, with a charge of £78.
In a complaint to Camden, the woman, who has a mental health diagnosis and did not want to be named, said: “I was admitted to hospital five times between February and June because of lack of oxygen due to the cancer in my lungs.
“I was very debilitated throughout. My leg was so swollen, I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t even pick up things from the floor, couldn’t clean.
“I have a lot of expenses: I need a new specialist mattress, I use more heating, more electricity for cooking, the cost of everything is increasing so much anyway. I had to buy new clothes because I lost a lot of weight with the chemo, for example, six or seven pairs of new trousers.
“I have high taxi costs for travel to hospitals for treatments and also to get to COVID tests. I am also seeing a lot of other doctors. I have to use the taxi, I can’t use public transport because I am too unwell and also coughing.
“The Taxicard helps but it is still very expensive. I spend a lot on transport so I don’t have any spare money from my mobility benefit.”
WinVisible had requested all the care charges be suspended, but Camden Council said it could not based on a calculation of her weekly expenses and savings, which are under £10,000.
“We cannot agree to your request to waive charges, the approach we can adopt is to review the financial assessment.”
Camden’s health chief Cllr Pat Callaghan said: “Health care is free at the point of delivery, whereas social care is means tested by local authorities, including Camden Council, and is not free for everyone.
“In this case, we have offered the resident a further review of their financial circumstances and the specific care that they require – we hope they will take this up and we can then agree a support package which works for them.”
See Letters page 17