Mixed reaction to social care transport charge increase in North Yorkshire

Elderly

Published by Local Democracy Reporter Stuart Minting at 9:30am 14th May 2019.

North Yorkshire County Council has received a mixed reaction after lessening the impact of a sharp increase in charges for lifeline transport services for elderly and disabled people. 

  • The authority wants to raise fees for travel to places such as day centres from £2.70 a day to £7.50 a journey
  • After a consultation, it says the rise would be phased in and capped at £30 a week
  • A range of bodies, including Age UK and Healthwatch North Yorkshire were asked for their views as part of the consultation

North Yorkshire County Council’s executive member for adult social care and health integration Councillor Michael Harrison said the proposals to raise fees for travel to places such as day centres from £2.70 a day to £7.50 a journey would be phased in and capped at £30 a week.

Cllr Harrison said the authority had listened to the views of service users and their families who told a consultation the proposed fees increase was unreasonable, would impact on people on low incomes and may lead to people stopping using services, thereby increasing social isolation.

Neverthless, he said while the authority’s Tory administration was dedicated to supporting adult social care as much as possible, the council had other important commitments, such as to children and road users, and was also facing further budget cuts.

However, he said it was important that a fair balance was struck, as while the authority was spending £2.2m annually on transport for social care users, it was receiving just £124,000 in contributions. He said the proposals would add a further £200,000 in contributions.

Ahead of the council’s health and adult services executive members committee considering the proposals, Cllr Harrison said the average cost of travel to a social care service using transport provided by the county council was more than £18 per journey due to the specialist care provided on board transport.

He said:

“It is a high cost, but these services are a lifeline, they are extremely important to the end user.

“There is a huge gulf in the true cost of the service and what people are paying. We will continue to provide the services and subsidise it heavily, so it is extremely good value for money, but is a bit more realistic.”

A range of bodies, including Age UK North Yorkshire and Darlington and Healthwatch North Yorkshire were asked for their views as part of the consultation.

Nigel Ayre, Healthwatch North Yorkshire’s operations manager, said transport and access to services across England’s largest county was one of the biggest issues raised with us by members of the public.

He said:

“While we appreciate the difficult situation local authorities find themselves in it is important that any decisions taken do not have adverse consequences elsewhere in the system.

“If people are unable to access key services this could have a detrimental impact on their physical and mental wellbeing which could result in more costly care further down the line.

“It is a positive step that North Yorkshire County Council have looked to cap the costs but this policy if implemented its impact will need to be carefully monitored.”

Simon Davidson, chief executive officer of Age UK North Yorkshire and Darlington said the charity recognised “the stark reality that money is not available to councils to subsidise services” as they have done.

He added:

“The fact that North Yorkshire County Council has consulted service users is a good thing. Difficult decisions are necessary.”

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