Fighting care charges

CNJ Natasha snip

Natasha Cox from WinVisible recently spoke out about how care charges have affected her life, in an interview with the Camden New Journal. She is one of the severely disabled people hit by the charges increase which Camden implemented from last October. We were part of a community campaign against this, and supported Carers and Parents Enfield (CAPE) who defeated this proposal in Enfield.

Many councils now take the 24-hour care component of DLA or PIP into account (or full rate of Attendance Allowance) when charging people, even where the council provides no night time support. For people on direct payments, charges are deducted at source from their budget. Between charges and stopping respite for her main carer, Natasha has lost support to the value of around £50 a week. With Natasha we are pressing Camden to take all her circumstances into account, including accepting other evidence instead of a stressful face-to-face assessment.  Full text of her interview below.

The GMB union, which represents waged carers, recently published a report that at least 166,000 people (mainly women) are trapped in social care debt and that more than 1,100 were taken to court by local authorities for social care debt during past two years.

Following an eight-year campaign by disabled and older people, Hammersmith and Fulham council ended charges for homecare and also has a policy not to take residents to court for debts they cannot afford.

Tom Foot, Camden New Journal, writes:

A YOUNG woman with severe brain damage says she has been put on antidepressants and has had more seizures as a result of care charges introduced last autumn.

Natasha Cox is around £50 per week out of pocket since the council changed the way it calculates the cost of home care and introduced new administration fees [higher contribution] last autumn.

“It has been horrendous and I know I am not alone,” said Ms Cox this week.

But a new system means the 36-year-old is charged around £25 more a week for the help [more than £25 a week], and also has around £25 less in her budget — about half of her care budget.

Since the changes came in Ms Cox has been demanding to be reassessed, but she has hit a brick wall in trying to fix up an appointment.

WinVisible, a disability support group, have written to the council saying the changes are “causing her enormous shock and distress” and her GP has also written to the council urging a resolution saying that Ms Cox needs a “period of stability”.

Ms Cox went to Fitzjohn’s Primary School and Hampstead Secondary School but, aged 15 and in her GCSE years, she suffered a severe brain haemorrhage.

She said: “It was November when it happened, a Friday 13th. I was given the last rites. I lost my memory completely, short term, and that really messed me. up. I wanted to do something medical when I was at school. I wanted to go abroad. Now all those dreams got taken away. I have to face the reality of what I am capable of now.”

The damage wiped away many of her memories and she said she had to “remember how to relearn”. If she does not focus her mind sometimes; her limbs can start “flipping out”.  “I can lose control through the stress of all this stuff,” she added.

Ms Cox said: ”Because of my brain damage, I have to do things systematically. Suddenly I have to find three years of bank statements. Things they don’t consider are that, on top of having a disability, other things in life can be pretty shitty as well. For example, I hate going on meds. They are supposed to make me normal but it doesn’t feel right. So getting the statements together, that is a lot of work for me. How am I supposed to do that?

My brain damage is pretty severe. I had to relearn how to remember. I have to stick to my patterns.

When there is a change to all of this, it is quite a biggie.

“I didn’t relearn to do all of this to fight constant battles. But now I can’t see a stage in my life when I won’t have to fight. It’s horrendous. It’s horrible.”

Ms Cox is studying gender, sexuality and society at Birkbeck University in Bloomsbury.

The council said it could not comment on individual cases, and a statement from Cllr Pat Callaghan added: “Residents were consulted last year on proposals to amend the way the council assessed these contributions. Following this consultation, changes were made to ensure assessments were fair to all.”·

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