Service charge plan gets off to bad start

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THE rolling out of Falkirk Council’s charges for social care has been described as ‘‘shambolic’’.

Since November 1, adults receiving non-residential services have had to pay for them as part of measures to reduce the authority’s budget shortfall.

However, the move has suffered several problems and, as a result of the introduction of charges, 467 of the 6000 users have chosen to withdraw from the services.

Speaking at Tuesday’s housing and social care committee, acting director of social work services Margaret Anderson said: “We notified around 5000 people at the beginning of October, however there were some groups of people who received less notification than others about the charges. Getting invoices out during the winter weather was also a problem.”

The weather also meant all available staff were transferred to emergency care, meaning shopping and housework services were cancelled.

Ms Anderson said: “Because of this disruption, I couldn’t be certain that people had received the level of services expected so, for that two week period, charges have been waived.

“For people who have chosen to withdraw from services, we are making sure that we have done as much as we can to ensure they have the right information.”

The committee also heard that the charges would bring in £1.3 million – less than had been anticipated – and that two new members of staff are required to administer the programme.

Councillor Cecil Meiklejohn said: “This appears to have been a complete shambles. I have had many calls from people who are not happy about the arrangements.

“There are some people who have received invoices who are on basic benefits and can’t afford them, and other who have still to receive an invoice three months on.

‘‘It is causing a lot of anxiety and it’s having an impact on people’s mental health. We feel that there hasn’t been enough consultation with people, nor is there enough good information out there for service users.

“There are also additional staffing costs which should have been thought through before now.”

Councillor Linda Gow admitted that she too had received many calls from worried constituents.

She added: “We have to acknowledge that there have been difficulties. Practically every other council charges for care services, and we were facing heavy criticism for a £4 million budget overspend.

“I would like to thank the staff for the work they have done so far, and hopefully the mechanisms will run more smoothly in the future.”