East Lothian Council to charge disabled for use of services

A HARD-UP local authority is set to charge people with learning disabilities £2 for the use of their day centre facilities.

Wednesday, 14th March 2018, 6:00 am
East Lothian Health and Social Care partnership said the fees were due to rising pressures on its budget

East Lothian Health and Social Care Partnership (ELHSCP) announced the proposals alongside increases to existing charges already in place as part of their 2018-19 budget.

The partnership says the move is a result of it having to deal with significant budget savings of around £3 million over the next three years.

The new costs will see adults up to the age of 65 with learning disabilities charged £2 per three-hour session at a resource and day centre, with an additional cost of £2 per journey to provide transport to destinations other than the centres for education, employment and leisure purposes.

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Three centres provide these services, at Musselburgh, Haddington and Port Seton.

At present no-one in a similar situation in Edinburgh pays to use these services.

A spokeswoman for Edinburgh Health and Social Care partnership confirmed the issue has been discussed before but was “knocked back”.

East Lothian Health and Social Care spokeswoman Councillor Fiona O’Donnell said the partnership was “facing a very difficult period financially”.

She said: “The continuing pressure on public funding in Scotland and in the UK means that our resources become more and more stretched every year. At the same time, we have a rapidly growing population of people who need social care support.

“This means doing things differently so that we can meet people’s needs cost-effectively.

“We do not have the option of doing nothing – managing our resources extremely carefully is the only way that we will be able to continue supporting the growing number of service users and carers in the longer term.”

The partnership says it held three information meetings with carers, service users and others as well as holding an online consultation before making the announcement.

Dr Donald Macaskill, chief executive of Scottish Care, which represents independent social care providers, said: “We recognise the difficult decisions that health and social care partnerships are required to take in order to balance the books.

“However, alongside many others, we are concerned that the impacts of some of these hard decisions are most especially being felt by those who are least able to bear them.

“The importance of day opportunities to some of our most vulnerable citizens, and for their family carers, cannot be overestimated. They provide spaces to meet others and places for respite and renewal.”

Conservative health spokesman Miles Briggs said: “This is yet another example of the social care crisis across Lothian.

“ELHSCP must ensure vulnerable people are not excluded from these services due to financial reasons.”