Tower Hamlets Council in East London has been praised for scrapping care charges for disabled people in their own homes. Disability News Service reports that the council will scrap all community based care charges from April 2024.
Campaigners have long argued that charging people with disabilities for essential support services is discriminatory and unfair, and even morally wrong. Many disabled people rely on visits from care workers to help them with the tasks of everyday living, such as getting washed, dressed, and preparing meals.
For many, this daily care means the difference between being able to remain in their own homes and having to go into residential care. It also improves the health and quality of life for thousands of people, reducing the strain on the NHS and easing the burden of unpaid carers, such as teenagers or older offspring who may have families of their own.
The disability rights charity Real is based in Tower Hamlets and welcomes the decision to scrap care charges, an outcome it has long campaigned for. The council is only second in the country to make such a bold move, after the charges were widely imposed in the face of stringent austerity measures from 2010 onwards.
Mike Smith (pictured), Real’s outgoing chief executive, said: “It’s effectively a tax on being disabled. This progressive decision ensures the cost of essential support is spread evenly across the population, rather than only billing those people who have no choice but to use the services.”
He added: “Tower Hamlets has higher than average levels of disability amongst its population, and higher than average levels of poverty. The current administration should be proud of this decision, and we hope other local authorities around the country follow their example.”
“It’s great that this latest news means that we have returned to be a kinder, fairer and more progressive borough for disabled people.”
Tower Hamlets contains some of the most deprived neighbourhoods in the UK, and it is estimated that 56% of children in the borough live below the poverty line, compared to about 25% nationally. About 2,600 people require community based care and support, and currently about 1,300 of these pay a charge.
A spokesperson for the mayor of Tower Hamlets said: “Providing free homecare was a key manifesto commitment for mayor Lutfur Rahman and the Aspire party. We are delighted it has been fully provisioned as of the budget full council on 1 March, and will begin to take effect from April 2024.”
They added: “In the midst of the worst cost-of-living crisis in modern history, and after years of destructive austerity, relieving costs for Tower Hamlets residents – particularly vulnerable residents – is a top priority of this mayor and this administration.”
“While we would have preferred to relieve said costs with immediate effect, we needed to follow a rigorous budget-setting process to ensure the money was properly allocated.”
The only other local authority in England that does not currently impose care charges for disabled people is Hammersmith and Fulham in London.
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