New policy introduced for service charges

A NEW charging policy is being introduced for Angus Council’s social work services although the authority’s social work convener has said that most users will see “no difference”.

All 5,000 people in Angus who use a range of social work services, including housing support, pension collection, laundry services, domestic help and social activity facilities, are currently being contacted by the council to advise them of the change.

The policy of financial and need assessment will take the place of a structure created 15 years ago, which the council has said will be simpler and fairer.

Social work and health convener Councillor Alison Andrews said the new policy has “fairness at its heart”.

She said: “Of the 5,000 non-residential service users, it is likely that the majority will see no difference in the amount they pay for services. Social work staff will be contacting those people who are affected by the changes to discuss the impact on them.

“The current charging policy drawn up in 1996 is now seen as complex and unfair in some cases, where people who have the same amount of available income are being charged a different amount for the same service.

“There are a range of services which are not charged for if the person is assessed as requiring them, for example, extra help in the home for up to four weeks after leaving hospital; laundry services, and personal care for people aged over 65. However, there are charges for other services including help with housework and shopping.”

She added that the majority of clients will receive services below the cost of providing them while for low income clients they will continue to be free.

Mrs Andrews said: “We also need to be realistic about resources and have a duty to protect the interests of the wider community of council tax payers. Through our financial assessment process, therefore, those who can afford to pay for services will be asked to do so.

“The level of service received is based on assessed need, not on ability to pay, and the amount which people are asked to contribute is means tested, so no-one will be asked to pay more than they can reasonably afford.

“All service users will be offered a benefits check to ensure that they are receiving all of the welfare benefits to which they are entitled as part of the financial assessment process. Our charging policy has been drawn up after rigorous review and is based on the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities guidance. Although it is difficult to compare charges in Angus with those in other local authorities because of differences in charging structures, we are broadly in line with other similar areas.”

Anyone with concerns or queries about the new charging policy should call the council’s ACCESSLine on 08452 777 778 or talk to a member of Social Work and Health staff.