PEMBROKESHIRE County Council’s plans to increase the cost of day care by more than 400% have been condemned as exorbitant and ageist by an 89-year-old Pembrokeshire resident.
From the beginning of next month the council is increasing the cost for elderly and disabled adults attending day care services from £4.60 to £16.50 a day. From April 1 next year the cost will further increase to £23.70.
Sylvia Fewery, has been going to the Wintern Day Centre for the last four years. For the 89-year-old, who lives on her own and is unable to get out independently, the centre has become a lifeline. She has started domino and card clubs and enjoys companionship, care and entertainment as well as a hot meal and transport to and from the centre.
“When I go to the day centre I’m a person again,” she said. “It’s the companionship and it’s something to look forward to.
“The staff there are wonderful. They really do everything for you.”
The council have asked Mrs Fewery to complete a means form to see if she is eligible for a discounted daily fee. However this is something she is not prepared to do, saying it is her own private business. Her family say that many others also refused to disclose their finances during the council’s consultation process and are questioning its validity.
Mrs Fewery says she is not prepared to pay such a massively increased daily fee.
“I feel that leap was far too much,” she said. “I’m utterly disgusted by the increase. If I had all the money in the world I wouldn’t pay it. It’s the principle “I feel that they are getting at old people. It’s people like me that don’t have a voice they are getting at.”
Mrs Fewery’s daughter Jackie is her mother’s carer and fears there will be a knock on effect for carers.
"Without the Wintern Centre, my mother will spend those two days, which she currently enjoys very much, sitting at home on her own with no-one to talk to," she said. "I am very concerned that when she stops going to the Wintern Centre she will become extremely isolated and totally dependent on me for her social life.
“When she’s at the Wintern Centre those two days a week I know she’s being collected and cared for and brought home again. I know she is having a lovely time.”
A spokesman for Pembrokeshire County Council said that as a result of the reduction in funding by the Welsh Government, the county cCouncil is required to deliver significant efficiency savings over the next three years.
"In the case of charging for day care services, these have been historically delivered free of charge in Pembrokeshire despite local authorities in Wales being able to charge for these services since April 2004.
To continue to provide day care services the council is seeking to recover the actual cost of providing the service. Cabinet however agreed to a phased introduction of these charges i.e. £16.50 from the 1st September 2014 and £23.70 from 1st April 2015.
"However, before any charges are made, all customers will be invited to apply for a financial test of resources to assess their ability to pay.
"Low income households without savings would not be expected to incur charges. In addition the maximum that a customer can be charged for non-residential social services e.g. home care and day care fees, is capped to a maximum of £55 weekly.
"The Council’s scheme for this financial year also provides an additional income protection of £12.50 weekly in excess of the Welsh Government’s prescribed scheme."
Editor's note: This article has been edited to reflect that while the rate from April will be five times what it is now, the rise is 400%.