Rise in cost of social care in Wigan

Wigan Town Hall

Wigan Town Hall

Wigan Council’s cabinet has forced through a care charges hike in the face of opposition from Labour colleagues.

In a rare show of disunity, the town hall’s top table overruled recommendations from the health scrutiny committee to think again.

It’s very disappointing, but I expected it. The fact is people are now going to suffer financially and that’s upsetting

Debra Baxter

Bosses said that they didn’t want to get into the same predicament as neighbouring Lancashire County Council of whom experts say it will run out of money in three years’ time. The reforms bring the borough’s rates in line with other Greater Manchester authorities.

Wigan Council leader Lord Smith said that a “tough decision” had to be taken by forcing through controversial social care charge rises.

The reforms, bringing the borough’s rates in line with other Greater Manchester authorities, were approved by cabinet despite being rejected by the health scrutiny committee.

Lord Smith referenced the position of Lancashire County Council, which has been told it will run out of money in three years, adding: “I think we need to remember the context (of this decision). We don’t ever want Wigan to ever be in that position, we need to make decisions that are tough but are in the best interests of people in the borough in the longer term.”

The changes, which come into effect in November, include the level of disposable income taken into account in financial assessments increasing from 75 to 90 per cent.

The council has said charges will only increase for those able to afford it. But Labour members of the health scrutiny committee voiced concerns that alternatives to the price hike had not been fully explored.

And they said the results of a 10-week consultation held little authority given the minimal responses. The Labour-dominated committee voted not to support the recommendations but they have now been adopted by their superiors.

Winstanley service-user Debra Baxter had questioned the morality of the reforms, saying they will make life tougher for vulnerable members of society.

The 50-year-old said: “It’s very disappointing, but I expected it. The fact is people are now going to suffer financially and that’s upsetting.”

Wigan Council is facing a huge social care budget deficit and recently imposed a two per cent council tax rise to help fund adult social care.

Stuart Cowley, director for adult social care and health, said: “Through the Deal for Adult Social Care and Wellbeing, the council is transforming the way it provides adult social care support to all, by better understanding the wants and preferences of people receiving support and linking people to local options in the community.

“This proposal would generate more resources to fund frontline care services, whilst maintaining our position of collecting a lower proportion of income from those with ability to pay than all other GM local authorities.”