Cash strapped council plans to cut benefits for thousands of Northamptonshire's disabled and elderly residents

The council is planning to change the level of benefit given to some disabled adults and elderly people.
The council is planning to change the level of benefit given to some disabled adults and elderly people.

Thousands of Northamptonshire’s disabled adults and elderly people in residential care could have their benefits cut under new proposals by the cash-strapped county council.

The authority, which is looking to reduce its budget across all services, has come up with a proposal to cut the amount of money the majority of adults with disabilities receive each week to pay for items or services that will help them manage. It is also proposing to reduce the amount elderly people can keep of their income before contributing to care costs.

The proposal is to set the disability related expenditure at a standard £23 per week as opposed to the current system which has a lower £18 per week rate for some people and a higher £28 for others.

If brought into force it will see 2,239 Northamptonshire adults with disabilities lose £260 per year. A total of 885 people who are on the lower rate will see their benefits increase annually by £260.

A total of 1,489 people elderly in residential care could also see their standard income disregard allowance cut from £194.50 per week to £189.

The council’s ruling Conservative cabinet will decide next Tuesday (Sept 10) whether to begin a 12-week consultation on the review of its adult social care service which if adopted is projected to save the authority more than £750,000 a year.

A report to cabinet acknowledges the potential impact on service users will be ‘significant’.

It says: “Given that the proposals set out will have a direct impact on current service users, as well as the potential to affect future service users, it is important that the council seeks their views and provides the opportunity for them to feedback on how the proposals could affect them.

“A further report will be brought to cabinet, who should take the response to consultation into consideration before making its final decision on the proposals. Legal advice recommends that a consultation process on proposed changes take place, and the results and alternative proposals are taken into account in any final decision-making process by cabinet.”

The reports says the change would bring the council’s policy in line with other councils and the Department of Health.

Altogether if the new system was introduced it would save the council £759,896 per financial year. The legal review has cost the council £10,000 and the consultation will cost £3,000.

Labour county councillor Mick Scrimshaw said that the fact the council had already engaged legal advice ‘tells me that the impact is going to be severe’.

He said more questions were needed and it was right that the in-year savings plan was going to cabinet.

The authority has to save £41m this year and is currently projecting it will overspend by £5m on its £417m annual budget.