Social work clients face hike in charges

Scottish Borders Council headquarters.
Scottish Borders Council headquarters.

Social work clients in the Borders will be expected to stump up extra payments for services worth a total of £464,000 next year.

The new rates, which apply to a raft of residential and non-residential services provided by Scottish Borders Council, will come into force on April 1, 2015.

The extra income generated will exceed the council’s £400,000 target as it bids to cut total revenue spending by £27m over the next five years.

At least part of the excess income will be used to fund the extra staffing required to collect the cash and assess the financial means of social work service users.

Flat rate rises will take place across a range of services, including Bordercare Alarm (up from £2.50 to £3 a week) and day care (up from £2 a day to £3).

If day transport is required it will be charged at £2 per journey, compared to the current £1 levy.

As part of the package of new and increased charges unanimously approved by the council last week, there will now be a £10 flat charge, plus an annual maintenance charge of £25, for the installation of specialist equipment in the homes of clients.

Night support, currently offered free for the first 42 days after hospital discharge, will be charged at £10 a week.

The so-called taper rate – the proportion of a client’s residual income which can be used to contribute to the cost of their care and support – will go up from 43.5% to 55%, thus bringing in extra annual income of £167,250.

A report by chief social worker Elaine Torrance said the charges needed to go up “to ensure services remain affordable and sustainable”. Clients unhappy with their assessment would, she added, have the right to appeal.

She said the new charging policy was the result of an extensive review process with service users, their families, carers and staff.

“From the feedback received, it was clear that service users and carers valued the services provided and understood the need for charging to protect services,” said Ms Torrance.