Social care charges a struggle for many

Many vulnerable Borderers struggled last year to pay non-residential social care charges levied by Scottish Borders Council.

A Freedom of Information response has revealed that, out of the 3,591 service users who paid the charges, the local authority commenced debt management procedures against no fewer than 288 clients for non-payment in the 2014 calendar year.

The number who were in arrears of more than four weeks over the year was 251 with two actually taken to court for non-payment.

The news comes after the 2014 charges – for a range of services including home care, day care and Bordercare Alarm - were hiked up on April 1 this year.

When councillors approved the increases, which are projected to bring in extra annual income of £464,000, they were told they would “ensure services remain affordable and sustainable”.

The increases include an extra 50p a week – to £3 – for users of the Border Care Alarm service and a doubling to £2 of the cost of transporting clients to day services.

A flat charge of £10 together with an annual maintenance charge £25 has been levied for the installation of specialist equipment in the homes of clients.

Night support, which was previously offered free for the first 42 days after hospital charges, is now 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 – rose from 43.5% to 55%, to bring in extra annual income of £167,250.

Clients unhappy with their assessments and subsequent demands for payment have the right to appeal.

The Freedom of Information response says 59 service users sought a waiver of their charges last year and 38 were successful.