The Isle of Wight Council is to undertake a two month consultation on proposed changes in how it treats additional expenses related to disability.
Currently, the council allows service users with a disability a flat rate allowance of £10 a week (within their non-residential financial assessment) to meet additional costs due to their disability – even if these costs are less than £10. This is a discretionary amount introduced in 2003. Such additional disability related expenditure (DRE) may include the extra costs for a service user looking after their home, looking after themselves and transport or travel needs. It may cover areas such as laundry costs, special diets, cleaning, shopping or heating and fuel costs above standard allowances.
The proposed changes to the way disability related expenditure will be assessed in the future were approved by Full Council at its budget setting meeting on 26 February – subject to specific consultation with service users.
Councils are required under the Department for Health’s Fairer Contribution Guidance for Non-residential Services to make an allowance within their financial assessment process for additional costs due to a service user’s disability. Councils have discretion on how they manage such disability related expenditure.
In 2003, following consultation, the council introduced the system which allows all disabled service users (whether or not in receipt of disability benefits) to receive £10 a week to meet additional costs. The council made the payment by reducing any client contribution towards the cost of their care by £10 per week – to take into account this additional expenditure.
Currently all service users are financially assessed for their disability related expenditure when their service commences and then at an annual review – to ensure the information on their financial circumstances is as up to date as possible.
Under the proposed changes due for consultation, the council is looking to achieve a process which is fairer and more robust. It is proposing to remove the allowance of £10 per week within the financial assessment for all users – and instead in each case calculate the actual additional costs incurred as part of the assessment. It means some people will no longer receive an allowance for DRE, if they are able to manage their disability at no additional cost. Where additional costs are incurred, they will be assessed within the set guidelines and adjustments made to the client’s contribution.
The new approach also proposes that there will no longer be discretion within the council’s fairer charging policy to decide if a service user has to provide proof (in the form of receipts) of their additional costs related to their disability. Instead actual evidence will be required in all cases to support an application.
The consultation will include a letter from the council to all relevant service users (about 1,400 people) offering them the opportunity to complete a questionnaire on the proposed changes or to do so online via the council’s iwight.com website. A telephone support number will also be given and support for those who need to receive the information in a different form.
As well as consulting with service users, key stakeholders such as People Matter Isle of Wight and Healthwatch Isle of Wight will be asked to engage on the consultation issues with service users and carer groups across all disability groups.
The proposed changes and consultation are set against a backdrop of the council facing savings of £28 million over the next three years. It is estimated the proposals may give a part-year saving of £160,000 in 2014/2015, rising to a full-year saving of £300,000 in 2016/2017.
Cabinet member for health, community and adult wellbeing, Councillor Gordon Kendall, said:
“We hope the consultation will give service users and stakeholders a full opportunity to give their views on the proposed changes.
“The council is facing extreme financial challenges over the coming three years, and in relation to this we are required to take a look at all our costs, including introducing proposals for a fairer and more robust approach to additional disability related expenditure.”