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203Councillors are to be asked to agree changes to the way some people who receive non- residential social care services are financially assessed, following consultation.

Durham County Council is seeking to make changes which will bring its policy broadly into line with other local authorities in the North East with regards to the financial assessment of people who receive Severe Disability Premium (SDP) payments.

The council has carried out consultation on proposals to review the current system so that people who require non-residential care and are in receipt of the SDP payments, undergo the same assessments as people who do not receive the payment.

All existing service users would be fully protected.

There was a low response rate to the consultation.

However, of those that did respond, 74% either strongly agreed, agreed or neither agreed nor disagreed with the proposals.

The council’s Cabinet is now being recommended to agree the changes at its meeting on 14 September.

If agreed, the changes could mean some people will pay less towards their care, while others may be asked to contribute more.

However anyone already receiving both SDP and non-residential care would see no change to their financial assessments and they would be fully protected.

The proposals would come into effect from 1 October and would be phased in so that most of the people who could be affected would be on the new system by 2020.

Cllr Lucy Hovvels, portfolio holder for adult and health services, said: “These changes would see new service users who come into the system and who are in receipt of SDP, and who require non-residential care, being treated the same as other service users who do not receive the payment, which we believe is a fair and equitable approach and in line with that of other local authorities.”

Cllr Alan Napier, portfolio holder for finance, said: “The council continues to face unprecedented financial pressures and whilst these new arrangements would save us around £1m over the next four years this is clearly a savings area that we would not wish to visit in normal circumstances.

“We are having to consider savings in service areas like this because of the financial pressures we are facing.

“It is important to stress that although some people may end up paying more for their care should these changes be implemented, there will equally be those who will be paying less.

“The proposals we are recommending should be viewed as being ‘fair’ to both new clients and existing clients and I take comfort from the support arrangements available to all service users to ensure they pay the correct amount in line with their care needs and individual financial circumstances.”

Consultation sought the views of the public, including disability charities, and community and voluntary groups, and took place between April and June.

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