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Community Care: Fees and Charges

Volume 461: debated on Tuesday 12 June 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment she has made since the introduction of “Fairer Charging Policies for Home Care and non-residential Social Services—Guidance for Councils with Social Services Responsibilities” of the impact on home care service users in England of the ability of local authorities with social services responsibilities to set their own charging schemes for home care services. (141435)

The Department has not made any assessment. It is for councils to decide on how to set charges for non-residential social services. The legal basis is that charges generally should be reasonable, and that no one should be asked to pay more than they reasonably can.

Until the guidance on home care charges, “Fairer Charging Policies for Home Care and other non-residential Social Services”, was implemented, councils with social services responsibilities operated under few constraints or guidelines on how to charge for home care and practice varied widely. “Fairer Charging Policies” is statutory guidance, issued under section 7 of the Local Authority Social Services Act 1970; councils must have regard to it.

The guidance, which was issued in 2001 and amended in 2003 to reflect the introduction of pension credit, does not seek to change councils’ power to charge, or not, for services. It seeks to ensure that, where councils do charge, this will be based on fairer, well designed charging policies. In particular, it aims to ensure that service users on low incomes are protected from charging and that any charges levied on disability benefits are subject to an assessment of disability costs, to ensure their reasonableness.

Local authorities have discretion as to whether they charge people receiving benefits for domiciliary care or not. However, if they do decide to do so, the guidance states very clearly that service users should not have their incomes reduced below basic levels of income support or the guarantee credit of pension credit, plus a buffer of 25 per cent., as a result of charges.