Agenda item

Proposed Consultation on Adult Social Care (Non-Residential) Fees and Charges 2021/22 (Decision: 110528)

Minutes:

Councillor Halden introduced the report and stated that this was the first step in helping to stabilise the adult social care budget for the long-term, particularly in a post-COVID world, to ensure the most vulnerable residents were protected. He explained that it currently cost users £13 per hour for domiciliary care, but this service actually cost the Council £17.06 per hour, which meant that the service was not recovering costs. Councillor Halden added that there were currently 1200 service users, of which almost 1000 users only paid a portion of the costs or nothing at all. He added that the adult social care market was experiencing increased financial pressures because of COVID, which included the added expense of appropriate PPE. He mentioned that Thurrock also had to remain in parity with Essex County Council, which currently paid 90p per hour more than Thurrock, which could leave Thurrock uncompetitive. Councillor Halden stated there were three options going to consultation, which were being presented to Cabinet, which included taking no action; increasing to the maximum charges immediately; or increasing the charges over a period of three years. He mentioned that increasing the charges gradually was the proposed course of action so residents had time to adjust to the changes whilst ensuring that the service was stable and reliable in the future. He stated that this report recommended the Council go out to consultation on these three options to ensure residents could have their say. He explained that the Council would listen to any feedback carefully and was keen to hear views from those using the service and those on the edge of care, for example family and friends of care users. He stated that Cabinet had listened to overview and scrutiny and had extended the consultation from 30 days to 8 weeks to ensure that as many residents could take part as possible.

Councillor Coxshall questioned how the consultation would work and make sure that all residents had the opportunity to take part, as overview and scrutiny and Full Council often commented that consultations regularly received low turnout. Councillor Halden responded that due to COVID face-to-face consultation was limited, but that the consultation was being designed with HealthWatch, who were an independent third party organisation, and would help to make sure that the consultation was up to standard. He added that a paper consultation questionnaire would be delivered to all service uses, and a link to the online consultation would be added to the Council’s newsletter. He stated that the Local Plan consultation had used direct phone questionnaires, and this would also be considered for this consultation. He added that the Council were also currently looking at ways in which socially distanced consultation events could occur. Councillor Johnson asked how the Council would protect vulnerable residents who were not able to pay. Councillor Halden clarified that the full charge increase would only apply to 160 service users out of 1200, who were means assessed and able to pay or who had not filled out the means test self-assessment form. He stated that 148 service users did not pay for the service at all, and the remainder only paid a portion. He felt that therefore the maximum charge increase only had a limited scope and officers would retain the ability to use their discretion to offset the charge in exceptional circumstances. He stated that the means test criteria would not change, but was open to resident’s feedback in the consultation.

The Deputy Leader summarised and felt it was good to see the consultation had been extended to eight weeks based on the views of overview and scrutiny.  


RESOLVED: That Cabinet:

1. Reviewed the three options for charging regarding the services in scope detailed in section 3.1.

2. Approved that the three options go out to public consultation.

3. Approved that the consultation with providers can start as soon as possible regarding the rates the Council pays with the presumption of an above inflation increase to stabilise the market and reflect the increased costs arising from COVID.

Reason for decision: as outlined in the report
This decision is subject to call-in

Supporting documents: