Changes would make adult social care charges fair, more consistent and more transparent

A series of changes to the way people contribute to the cost of their care in Oxfordshire would see some people charged more so that resources can be targeted better at those who cannot afford to pay and would bring the county more in to line with how things operate elsewhere in England

All councils are allowed to charge for care and support to recover the costs incurred in line with the Care Act 2014. This means that people receiving social care across the nation may be expected to contribute towards the cost of their care depending on their individual financial circumstances.

If the council’s cabinet chose to implement the changes as proposed at its meeting on May 22, all additional money saved – estimated to be £1.8m per year - would be used to provide social care for people with significant care needs and who are unable to pay for care themselves. This is not a saving to the council’s bottom line.

A full consultation was undertaken during the Winter to which 620 responses were received.

The changes relate to people who make financial contributions to their care. It does not relate to people who have their care paid for in full. The council provides Adult Social Care to 6800 clients. Of these 4800 make a contribution towards the cost of their care and 2000 currently make no contribution towards the cost of their care.

Of the 4800 who contribute, the council estimates about 1700 people would see an increase in their contribution to the cost of their care. For the majority the increase would be no more than £30 per week. About 1300 would be better off (saving about £10 per week) and another 1800 would see no change at all.

Adopting what already happens most of the rest of England

Councillor Lawrie Stratford, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care, said:

All additional money saved (£1.8m) will be used to provide social care for people with significant care needs and who are unable to pay for care themselves. This is not a saving to the council’s bottom line. Overall it will better help the council support the constantly growing demand for care that is being experienced all over the country

““Most councils in England already operate the way we are proposing to operate in future – reflecting the actual cost of care, which differs town by town and village by village linked to the general costs of living. Oxfordshire County Council is not breaking new ground here – far from it. In a large county there is bound to be more variation in the actual cost of living than, for instance, in geographically tightly knit London borough. Things cost different amounts in Banbury and Henley, for instance.

All of this is completely in line with national policy and guidance under the Care Act. The council is currently at variance with the national picture. We need transparency, fairness and consistency. In reply to our consultation people said they wanted the simpler process we propose, reducing administration.

“There are many people who under national law are not required to make a contribution to the cost of their care because they cannot afford to do so. That principle remains in-tact.

“It really is worth stressing that this is not just about people having to contribute more to the cost of their care. Around three-quarters of people will either be completely unaffected or pay less.

We will have a dedicated team who will work proactively with people affected by the changes on a sensitive, caring and personalised basis. They will be offered a face to face visit.

“During the consultation people told us that they wanted an assessment process that was easier to understand and we have listened. The original proposals included changing the charging criteria for the non-statutory services (those the council isn’t legally obliged to provide) such as Telecare service. In response to concerns raised during the consultation we’re proposing to not progress with any changes at this time.

What individual changes are proposed?

Disability Related Expenditure

  • The council is required to make an allowance for any specific or additional costs a person incurs due to their age or disability. Rather than calculating this on a case by case basis we plan in future to apply an indicative 25% allowance. Our proposal makes things more equitable across the board and means that most people will not need to undergo a face to face visit if they do not want one. It will align with their disability benefits and means that people will be able to use the indicative DRE calculation to understand what their contribution might be prior to receiving care. It is very important to understand that people who think their expenses are greater than this would be able to request an individual assessment. The 25% is not set in stone.

Arrangement fees

  • Individuals receiving care in their own home, with savings over £23,250 who ask the council to arrange care on their behalf, currently pay the same one-off arrangement fee whether they receive care arranged by the council for 2 months or 2 years. Introducing an annual fee (£210) would mean a fairer approach to charging for the costs incurred by the council in monitoring a person’s ongoing care and support. The arrangement fee would be applied pro-rata meaning that if a person ceases care part way through the year they will only be charged the fee for that period.

12 week property disregards

  • For the first 12 weeks after a person enters a care home the value of their home is not taken in to consideration by the council in its assessment of how much they should contribute to their care home costs. We don’t currently align with the national law in this regard. In future we will only offer this to new permanent residents in care homes or where there’s an unexpected change in people’s circumstances – this is what national law requires.

Couple’s Assessments:

  • The national law does not require councils to make assessments of couples, only of individuals. In future the council would financially assess everyone as an individual in line with what the national Care Act requires.

Full cost recovery

  • For people the council assesses as having to pay, it proposes to charge them for the actual cost of that care. This is what happens in much of the rest of the country. The council currently charges an average hourly rate of £19.40 regardless of whether this reflects the actual cost of the care provided. So in some parts of the county the council is subsidising the cost of care for people who can afford to pay for it directly. Cost of care differs from town to town and in different parts of the county.

Non-Statutory services:

  • There is currently no definitive policy for non-statutory services (services that the council provides but is not legally obliged to do so), which has led to inconsistencies in the charging process.
  • The council had originally proposed charging for telecare and laundry services as these are not statutory. We no longer propose this having listened to the consultation.