Council urged to bring forward decision to end social care charging

Mon,20 March 2023
News Health & Social Care

The East London Council of Tower Hamlets has been urged to move forward with its "bold" decision to become just the second council in England to abolish all charges for care and support for Disabled people in their own homes.

The council says it will scrap all charges for community-based care and support services from April 2024, likely affecting nearly 1,300 who currently pay a charge for in-home care, with about 700 people paying less than £50 per week and about 600 more than £50 – as a contribution to the cost of their support package. Many in the local community continue to urge the council to bring their decision forward. 

For many years in the 1990s and early 2000s, Tower Hamlets were one of the only local authorities in the country that did not charge for domiciliary social care for disabled people and older adults. In 2017, Tower Hamlets Council said they had no choice but to introduce charging. This was due to budget deficits caused by cuts from the central government during the austerity years. 

Local Disabled People's Organisation Real had pushed to overturn that decision while also working with the council to develop a best practice guide on calculating disability-related expenditure (DRE) – the disability-related costs that should be taken into consideration when assessing how much someone can afford to pay in care charges – which helped many Disabled people “reduce their charges or escape them altogether”.

A spokesperson from Real told Disability Rights UK:

“At Real we are delighted that Tower Hamlets Council have said they will stop charging for social care. This progressive decision will be a great equaliser in the borough. It ensures the cost of essential support is spread evenly across the population, rather than only billing those people who have no choice but to use the services.

Real has always maintained that it is morally wrong, punitive and discriminatory against Disabled people to charge for the basics of getting out of bed, eating and washing, especially when compared to free NHS care for all. 

Disabled people have been hit disproportionately by the cost-of-living crisis and are struggling more than many with lower than average incomes and higher than average cost of living. We’re therefore concerned that the decision by Tower Hamlets Council won’t be implemented until April 2024. It’s not clear to us why Disabled people need to wait another year before we see the benefit. We would therefore urge Tower Hamlets Council to bring forward the implementation date to this spring. It’s now that Disabled people need this essential financial support, not in a year’s time.

We’d also urge the council to share the new policy as soon as possible to enable us, and other voluntary sector organisations, to scrutinise its content and provide appropriate guidance and support to the Disabled community.”