Oxford MailHigher fees will drive day centre users away (From Oxford Mail)

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Higher fees will drive day centre users away

ALMOST a third of day centre users could abandon the services if charges are increased by 150 per cent.

In responses to a council survey on future fees, 70 per cent of users of the main “tier three” centres said they would continue to use them.

The county council launched a consultation after announcing proposals to increase the cost of attending seven of its centres, and one run by Leonard Cheshire in Witney, from £4.18 to £15 for a five-hour session.

It also wants to increase the amount it charges for transport to and from all day centres, including some smaller services, from 82p to £5.

And if that happens, half of the people currently using transport services would abandon them, according to the survey.

Day centre user and chairman of friends of The Elms day centre in Witney, Chris Moxon, said he was surprised by the results, especially the 70 per cent figure.

He said: “I wouldn’t expect it to be that high. At the consultation meeting we had, many of the service users were disgruntled that there weren’t proposals to phase in the charges. They didn’t like the fact there were going to be these increases made in one fell swoop.”

He said he was worried that if the charges put users off, the centres would stop being viable.

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He said: “I think people who don’t get the support may decide to spend their money on something else, which could be bad for the centres.”

At a meeting of the council’s adult services scrutiny committee, director or social and community services John Jackson said the results showed the centres were highly valued.

He said: “There’s no doubt the centres are held in very high regard and that families and carers value the respite.”

A decision will be made by cabinet in January, but Mr Jackson admitted the budget had already been altered to factor in the charges.

At the meeting, Lib Dem councillor Jenny Hannaby said the council had to strike a balance between charging too little and too much.

She said: “I think users realise 82p for transport is not sustainable, but on the other hand they are asking for fairness. They want a fair rise and that’s what I’m looking for.”

Oxfordshire County Council spokesman Martin Crabtree said: “The consultation relates to charges made for day services.

“It is important to note that these charges will only apply to people who do not meet the criteria to receive services under FACS, Fair Access to Care Services which is the criteria against which support is allocated.

“People who are assessed as having critical and substantial needs under FACS, and do not have alternative means, will continue to have their care funded by the council via a personal budget.”

The full results will be discussed by the committee on December 17.

  • There are two different types of day centre service. Tier two centres are run by small organisations in village halls and community centres. Users of these centres only face an increase in transport costs, but users of the larger tier three centres could have to pay more than £20 per day. However, out of 461 tier three centre users who responsed to the consultation, 70 per cent said they would continue to go despite the proposals. And of the 73 tier two service users who responded, 52 per cent said they would continue to use the transport, with one in five saying they would ask others for help getting there and back.

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