Blind woman says 130 per cent charge increase means she is now frightened to spend money
A BLIND woman facing “extortionate” fees for her care has said she fears going shopping, amid warnings that spiralling care charges are compounding the bills crisis for the most vulnerable.
Fereshteh Khosroujerdy, a blind woman living in sheltered accommodation in Archway, has long been struggling to make ends meet. In the past decade, she has seen her care charges increase by roughly 130 per cent, despite now receiving fewer hours.
This week she told the Tribune spiralling costs have left her “very scared to actually spend money. Each time I go shopping, when I use my card I am very scared. I think: what if there’s not enough money? What should I do?”
Ms Khosroujerdy currently pays £116.54 a week out of her disability benefits – roughly one third of her total income – for 14.5 hours of care. This service is provided by JC Michael Groups, a Hackney-based care company.
Ms Khosroujerdy said she had found the service is unable to provide tailored support for her blindness, which involves reading out her paper mail and being careful to leave objects in the same place around her flat.
These care costs are compounded by additional expenses related to her sight loss. “Imagine, each year I have to pay £300 to update my screen reader software,” she said.
“I have had to pay £300 to fix my braille machine, I pay £50 to repair my two [specialist] watches.”
Ms Khosroujerdy has contacted Islington Council several times to ask for help but has so far received no response.
“People forget I am human,” she said. “I am not a ball – this is not a football match where you pass me from one [service] to another. They pass me to social services who pass me to the sensory team who pass me to occupational therapy who pass me to housing.”
She has said the council continues to contact her via paper letters – which she cannot read – and that some council workers dealing directly with her case still do not know she is blind.
WinVisible, a charity advocating on Ms Khosroujerdy’s behalf, has described her care costs as “extortionate.” The charity, which represents women with both visible and invisible disabilities, is campaigning for Islington and Camden to scrap their care charges altogether. [WinVisible adds: We are part of the Scrap Care Charges campaign across London, England and Wales.]
Claire Glasman, a founder member of WinVisible, said that among women she works with, it was typical to see care charges increase by 130 per cent, if not more.
“We’ve always opposed care charges – we believe that support for daily living should be free, as with the NHS,” Ms Glasman said.
A council spokesperson said: “Where a resident reports an issue regarding the quality of care they are receiving, or makes requests for reasonable adjustments, the council works with them to resolve this.
“We’re very sorry to hear about the issues that Ms Khosroujerdy has been having, and the distress that this is causing her. We have been in active contact with Ms Khosroujerdy and are absolutely committed to working with her to resolve these issues as quickly and effectively as possible.”
A spokesperson for JC Michael Groups said: “We are contracted by the London Borough of Islington adult social services to provide service as highlighted in the support plan.
“We send care workers to support FK in cooking, cleaning and other domestic tasks plus supporting her in shopping once a week. We provided well-trained and competent care staff to provide tailored support to FK in meeting her care needs.”
They added: “We can also clarify that our carers read her letters and paper mail upon her request. She has a preference of specific carers which we had discussed with her and we were always providing best possible service according to the needs highlighted in her support plan.”
Together, Fereshteh with WinVisible will be following up the continuing problems with her charges, daily living support and inaccessible paperwork being sent to her.
Click here to listen to Fereshteh on our podcast for International Women’s Day, 8 March 2022. Claire, Ebere, Fereshteh, Kate and Tracey, talk about:
· our Disabled Mothers’ Rights Campaign challenging the lack of support by Councils, and discrimination by the family courts, that leads to traumatic separation of mums and kids
· how disabled children are massively over-represented and mistreated in the children’s social care industry, as are children of colour;
· a lesbian disabled single mum describing homophobia;
· a disabled refugee woman spelling out her experience of the hostile environment;
· the impact on us of care charges and bad conditions of privatised care workers;