A local authority is set to charge people with learning disabilities for the use of their day centre facilities and the cost of transporting them to and from their homes.
East Lothian Health and Social Care Partnership (ELHSCP) announced the proposals alongside increases to existing charges already in place as part of their 2018-19 budget. The partnership said the move is a result of having to deal with significant budget savings of around £3 million over the next three years.
The new costs will see adults up to the age of 65 with learning disabilities charged £2 per three-hour session at a resource and day centre, with an additional cost of £2 per journey to provide transport to destinations other than day centres and resource centres.
East Lothian Health and Social Care spokeswoman, councillor Fiona O’Donnell, said the partnership was “facing a very difficult period financially”.
She said: “The continuing pressure on public funding … means that our resources become more and more stretched every year. At the same time, we have a rapidly growing population of people who need social care support. This means doing things differently so that we can meet people’s needs cost-effectively.
“We do not have the option of doing nothing – managing our resources extremely carefully is the only way that we will be able to continue supporting the growing number of service users and carers in the longer term.”
The partnership said it held three information meetings with carers, service users and others, as well as holding an online consultation in which 99 people took part before making the announcement.
Dr Donald Macaskill, chief executive officer of Scottish Care, which represents independent health and social care providers, said: “We recognise the difficult decisions health and social care partnerships are required to take in order to balance the books. However, we are concerned that the impacts of some of these hard decisions are most especially being felt by those who are least able to bear them.
“The importance of day opportunities to some of our most vulnerable citizens, and for their family carers, cannot be overestimated. They provide spaces to meet others and places for respite and renewal. It is extremely sad that because of inadequate funding from Scottish Government, a health and social care partnership has had to make these challenging decisions.”
Conservative health spokesman Miles Briggs said: “This is yet another example of the social care crisis across Lothian. East Lothian Health and Social Care Partnership must ensure vulnerable people are not excluded from these services due to financial reasons.”
Scottish Lib Dem social care spokesman Karen Clark said: “For too long the SNP have treated local government as the poor relation. This inevitably leads to stealth taxes, which are neither fair nor progressive, or services being put at risk. New charges for transport and access to day centres will have a huge impact.”