Kent County Council plans to raise social care charges

Plans to increase charges for people using social care in Kent are being put forward by the county council.

The Tory-run authority is writing to 24,500 people who use social services as part of the consultation which runs until 31 July.

Councillor Graham Gibbens, member for adult social care on the authority, said they had to do "what is best ahead of what is popular".

Unison has not so far responded. The council must cut £95m this year.

'Avoiding hospital stays'

Mr Gibbens added: "Kent County Council has a history of successfully tackling difficult issues and making difficult decisions to do the best for the people of Kent.

"The extra money from new and increased charges means that more people will be able to get services they need.

"These are services that could help people to stay out of hospital or residential care."

The council is proposing to charge people who use mental health services, including day care and transport.

Nadra Ahmed, from the National Care Association, said all types of care - including residential services and care at home - should be available fairly.

Ms Ahmed also said the council's consultation had come out about two months before a national independent commission released its findings.

The Commission for the Funding of Care and Support, chaired by Andrew Dilnot, is looking at how social care in England should be funded.

'Stealth tax' claim

Ms Ahmed said: "I find it bizarre that Kent County Council have decided to come out with this consultation prior to us hearing what the findings from Dilnot are going to be."

She said the plans to charge people for services were "almost a stealth tax on the wealthy", where people with money would pay and help to support people without money.

She added: "We know for a fact that all local authorities raise their criteria as they need their money.

"It becomes a kind of a game that the benchmarks go up as the money is squeezed, so the less people are eligible for public support.

"That happens in lots of different fields, not just in care, so I think the eligibility criteria will be very interesting."

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