40 per cent rise in care charges

AN increase of nearly 40 per cent in the charges for carers has rocked users of the service.

Herts County Council increased its charges for home care and day care services from this week from an hourly rate of £11.80 to £16.48 while the daily rate for day care has gone up 26 per cent from £29.60 to £37.46.

The rise has badly hit pensioners like Harold Newman, who lives in Bricket Wood and is the sole carer of his wife Audrey. And like many others he cannot understand why the rise has been so steep and why there was no explanation for it.

Mr Newman, aged 82, looks after his 86-year-old wife full-time apart from half-an-hour in the morning when carers come in to wash her.

Mrs Newman is unable to move around at all and sleeps in her chair. Her husband is often up in the night with her.

.He said: "I have been looking after her for years. She has gradually deteriorated and needs attention day and night."

Until now the carers have cost him £2,147 annually but that has now risen to just under £3,000 a year.

He has now cancelled the carers' visit at weekends to help keep the costs down. He added: "I expected an increase at the end of March which I thought would be about six per cent. This is well above the amount pensions are going up.

"When you think they are trying to get people to stay in their own homes and not go into care homes, this seems to defeat the object."

Mr Newman gets a carer's allowance but said that went on other expenses to make his wife's life as comfortable as possible.

As well as the increase, he has learned that the charge is now broken down into 15-minute slots and should the care of his wife go over the allotted 30 minutes, he would have to pay for an additional 15 minutes on top.

Mr Newman added: "We get nurses coming in twice a week and there is no charge."

A spokesperson for Herts county council said the rates had been increased to reflect the cost of providing the service and continued to be in line with Government guidance.

He went on: "Currently the cost of providing the services is greater than the amount gained from standard charges, leading to a shortfall which the county council was unable to continue subsidising without further increasing council tax.

"Extra money is needed to cope with more people reaching old age, a greater number of service users and the increasing needs of existing service users."

He pointed out that charging was means tested and around 12 per cent or 1,100 service users who currently paid the full cost of their care would be affected by the increased rates

No-one would be asked to pay more than they were able to afford according to their assessment, he added.