Barnet care cuts attacked

Barnet Council has been accused of a "short-sighted" attitude after cutting funding for day care services for the elderly.

Residents with more than £23,250 in savings or other assets will now have to pay the full charge for day care services, following the removal of council subsidies. The new policy will be rolled out from next month.

Janet Leifer's husband Jeffrey attends Jewish Care's Sam Beckman Day Centre in Hendon twice a week. Under the new policy, she will have to pay £75 a week for the service.

Mrs Leifer said the change would have "a huge impact" on the local community.

Support for dementia is already under-funded

"Most of the people at the Sam Beckman Day Centre will have to pay the full amount, which is very dear. There are going to be a lot of very distressed people.

"While I understand that cuts have to be made, I find the way Barnet has gone about this is very heavy-handed and disturbing to lots of vulnerable people who cannot speak up for themselves.

"We have to now make the choice - do we keep our savings which we have scraped together over the years for bad situations or do we spend it now?

"It could risk my husband's safety because the Jewish Care help is invaluable to both him and me but he may also need a care home one day and we may need to save the money for that."

Jewish Care director of care and community services Neil Taylor said Barnet had hitherto "paid for individuals with dementia to attend our special day care centres, such as the Sam Beckman.

"Unfortunately, we understand that they are now asking people to complete a financial assessment form, which will ultimately determine whether Barnet will help fund the cost of attending the centre in the future.

"Clearly Barnet, like other local authorities, are under pressure due to the budget cuts. Nevertheless, we are most disappointed to hear of their decision.

"Care and support for people with dementia is already an area which is under-funded and their decision to means test it could stop people from accessing the care and support they need."

Mr Taylor felt it was "a short-sighted decision, as special day centres provide care, support and stimulation for people with dementia and helps them to remain at home for longer, thereby reducing the burden on the state for residential care."

Some families might be able to meet the cost of day care themselves.

But the cuts raised the prospect that "people who are most in need of our support may find it increasingly hard to access it".

Councillor Sachin Rajput, Barnet's cabinet member for adults, said: "Our new contributions policy is based on a principle of fairness and need which will safeguard the most vulnerable people in our community.

"Barnet, as well as all other local authorities across the country, is asking people to make a contribution towards their support based on a nationally set financial criteria.

"Without this financial contribution the council simply would not be able to continue providing the same level of support to its residents as they reach older age."

    Last updated: 1:14pm, May 5 2011