Over two years ago, despite protests from SCIL and the majority of Direct Payments users in Southampton, Southampton City Council decided to introduce charging for Direct Payments users. For a number of reasons, the policy has not been implemented…until now.
This week, all Direct Payments users will receive a letter asking them to complete a form about their individual circumstances. Based on this information, Southampton City Council will then assess whether the user will pay a charge for Direct Payments.
SCIL completely oppose the introduction of charging and believe that it is fundamentally wrong for people to have to pay towards having their human rights met.
SCIL also believes that the amount of revenue actually raised by such policies is a lot less than many authorities claim once you take into account the costs of financially assessing users and administering the charges. We also question whether trying to collect accurate information from users without actually visiting them is going to be possible, particularly when disability related expenditure needs to be considered.
Indeed the Fairer Charging guidance issued by the Department of Health states ‘The process should not be primarily paper-based, or carried out by post, as a full list of possible items without explanation could be confusing for users. The process should be flexible enough to deal with differences in the needs of individual users. Users will very often need personal help and advice on how to claim. Assessments involving disability-related expenditure should, therefore, normally be carried out by personal interview in the user’s own home.’
SCIL has already had many concerned users contact us and we have therefore decided to hold an ‘open day’ where users can visit SCIL and receive help to complete the form. We will also be providing users with information on disability related expenses although this in no way absolves the local authority from their responsibility to provide face to face financial assessments to users.
The ‘open day’ will be on Friday April 11 2008 between 10am and 4pm. Direct Payments Support Workers will be on hand to give information, advice and support throughout the day. Obviously, we will also be visiting people at home if they are unable to get to SCIL, although Southampton City Council has set very tight deadlines for getting the forms completed. Please ring 023 8033 0982 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Below is an advice sheet produced by HCODP about preparing for a financial assessment. Please feel free to download it if you think it might be useful.