Anyone who cares for a severely disabled child, an elderly relative with Alzheimers, Parkinson's, etc. will know how important respite care can be. BBC Wales carried a report earlier this week on how a few Welsh authorities have been cutting respite provision, and it came as no surprise to residents of Carmarthenshire (slogan "improving the way we live") that our county is one of those leading the way towards the "Big Society" and a braver new future where people are told to stand on their own two feet.
No surprise either that Carmarthenshire County Council should deny that it has been cutting respite care to save money. Just as it recently announced that it was "developing" day clubs for the elderly by closing them, it is also busy changing the rules on eligibility for respite care. Here is Head of Integrated Services, Sheila Porter: "The service for accessing respite care has not changed, although we have applied the rules on eligibility to make it fairer for all".
Good to see that Sheila has passed her spin GCSE with flying colours.
Another service offered by the council is called Telecare. This involves installing electronic sensors in the homes of mainly elderly people to detect unusual patterns of movement, carbon monoxide, front doors left open, etc. For many it means the difference between independent living and moving into residential care or sheltered housing. So it's good for the people who use it and good for the council's finances.
Recently the council decided to introduce charges for the scheme, and the rate has been set at a modest £2.59 per week. Not much, but for many of the people who use the service and for whom every penny counts, that is another big drain on their squeezed budgets.
The only record of the meeting where this was decided tells us only that the charges were agreed. More than likely, nobody present (i.e. the councillors we elect and pay to do these things) thought to ask how much it will cost the council to administer these charges. £2.59 or more quite possibly.
So the net effect is that the frail and vulnerable will be digging deep into their pockets to help pay for the county's bureaucracy.
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