Elderly and needy told they will have to use their savings as cost of receiving care soars after subsidies scrapped

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MORE than 1,200 vulnerable Sheffield adults face increased charges for council home and day care services - with some bills set to triple.

Services which help needy and often elderly people to keep living at home will be strictly means tested, with the current maximum cap of £114 per week increased to £350.

Anyone with savings of more than £23,250 faces paying more - and previous measures which subsidised charges by 30 per cent are also being scrapped.

Around 2,500 people receiving care will not be affected by the changes, introduced from October.

Anyone who says they cannot afford the increases will have their circumstances reassessed.

Labour councillors say they have no choice but to implement a package seeking to raise £1.45 million a year from charges, which was included by the Lib Dems in their spring budget.

Coun Mary Lea, cabinet member for health, care and independent living, said the alternative would be serious cuts to frontline services.

“We deeply regret the introduction of such big increases but they come against a background of £80 million this year in Government cuts,” she said.

“In future people who are able to pay the complete value of council care services will be asked to do so.”

Coun Lea said there would be no further increases for the next two years, except to allow for inflation.

Eddie Sherwood, the council’s director of care and support, said the city had consistently tried to keep its charges at the lowest possible level.

“We have looked at other cities and we are clearly out of line with what is being charged elsewhere - at a maximum of £350 per week, there are still 47 authorities asking more,” he said.

“Government policies expect us to gather income to provide these services - but two thirds of our people will not be affected and won’t have to pay more.”

Some of those affected by the increases obtain individually tailored support for themselves, funded by a weekly personal budget agreed by the council. These too will be means tested.

Mr Sherwood services would never be withdrawn, even if people insisted they would not be able to pay. They would be allowed to go into debt with the arrears recovered later.

Coun Peter Price, chair of the Sheffield Pensioners’ Action Group, said some of his members would be on the receiving end of the increases.

“Some on benefits will not be affected but overall the whole situation is a real dilemma which is facing the council,” he said.

“Just where do you go to find these savings the Government is demanding of us? I know these moves are not going to be popular and it will be a real issue when the details emerge.

“I am expecting plenty of feedback from our members - it is going to be one of those issues of which they need to be aware.”