Cost of supported living!

A Camden woman with learning disabilities and her support worker from an advocacy group, got guidance from WinVisible, to win a reduction of £100 on her weekly care charges in a supported living place.

Ms B asked for our backing in 2021 when she wanted to protest about the poor quality of meals and the expensive £4.50 compulsory daily charge for a ready meal.  She won on care charges but the struggle continues over meals charges — which come under housing costs.

Care charges

Ms B contacted WinVisible when she was worried and distressed about a letter saying she needed to pay over a £100 a week towards her care.

In her previous flat, she didn’t have to pay for care and support.  But because she moved to a “Supporting People” place, called ‘extra care sheltered housing’, Camden has charges built in for everyone living there.  Ms B said other residents are also unhappy about the charges, and some had moved out.  We suggested to ask Mencap what the council is allowed to do.  Mencap said the council is allowed to make those charges.

We shared our experience of how to challenge charges.  We spell out what disability-related expenses we have, and the money we need for our other bills and to live our life and do activities that we want to do.   Ms B told the council, those charges wouldn’t leave her with any money for outings or buying clothes and her own food.  If she has to pay these charges, she would need to move out.  She asked Camden for a financial reassessment twice.  She also went to the caseworker of her MP.

Ms B won a reduction of £100 a week on her care charges.

Daily meal charges

One of the meals for residents when the supported living place first opened.

Residents are charged £4.50 a day for a ready meal. Camden says this ensures that residents have a nutritious meal.  But many residents don’t want or eat that food, and they buy their own food.

Ms B complained about the poor quality of the meals in December 2021, soon after she first moved in, and told them that she did not agree to pay for meals.  See: Would you fork out for this meal? **

Camden sent her a letter, saying that “if you do not pay, it may mean you would not be able to continue living at Charlie Ratchford Court”.  Ms B was frightened by this, and rang WinVisible, scared that she would be made street homeless.  We were appalled that Camden Adult Social Care would write to people with learning disabilities in that way.  Ms B’s support worker complained on her behalf, but the council never acknowledged the impact their words have on people.

Ms B prefers to cook her own food independently, or get something while out, if she has gone out.

She is now being pursued for a bill of thousands of pounds, and we are seeking advice. Meanwhile she went to the Camden New Journal again, image and text below.

** Many thanks to Tom Foot at the Camden New Journal for all his coverage.

What’s happened to care utopia?

Camden New Journal, Thursday 18 January 2024

John Gulliver is out to lunch (gossip column) — edited by Tom Foot

Why is the council pursuing a vulnerable resident over a £3,650 bill for food she has not received, let alone eaten? The woman has not paid for food since she became one of the first residents to move into Charlie Ratchford Court when it opened in 2021.

The new 38-home building in Chalk Farm was hailed as the future of care services — where the council would “support residents of all ages with social care needs to live independently”. Gone were old-style care homes where it was easy to imagine vulnerable people left to decay in depressing scenes, staring blankly at daytime television in between innutritious dinners and degrading washdowns.

The idea was to create an “inter-generational” home where old and young people, in need of varying degrees of care, mingled together.

Family members and residents from in and around Chalk Farm would also be encouraged to pop in for activities and social events. So why in this free-living utopia is the Town Hall being so intransigent about forcing residents to pay for food from the canteen.

“I like to make my own food or eat out,” the resident told me, adding that the huge bill over Christmas had made her want to leave the block.

Last year, with the help of Kentish-Town-based WinVisible group, this woman won a £100 reduction in her weekly care charges after challenging her bills.

Most people in the care system are not able to right these kind of wrongs. But this is what independence looks like.

A council spokesperson said: “A meal is provided daily for residents at Charlie Ratchford Court to help them maintain a healthy diet. This is part of an agreement signed by all residents before they move in, to better support those who might find preparing meals challenging. We are continuing to work closely with this resident to address their concerns and to find a solution.

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