Disabled people have been told they will not be moved to care homes against their will following a controversial policy change.

Council chiefs have defended a decision to stop providing community-based social care ‘by default’ – a move that is expected to save Barnet Council more than £400,000 in 2019-20.

They said the council will follow the appropriate legislation in ensuring care is based solely on people’s needs – and cost will not be taken into account when assessing those needs.

Council officers also pledged to ensure support plans are based on the choices of those needing care.

But Labour councillors continued to raise serious concerns about the policy, which some fear will lead to disabled people with high support needs being moved to out-of-town institutions instead of looked after in their own homes.

At a meeting of the adults and safeguarding committee on Thursday (September 19), campaigners and people with disabilities brandished signs warning councillors their independence and quality of life were under threat.

Committee chairman Cllr Sachin Rajput (Conservative), Oakleigh, said: “There is no loss-of-independence agenda that officers and this administration are trying to push.

“No-one would move an individual from their home to somewhere else unless that was an agreed approach with that individual.

“That is settled law. There has not been any change in policy to suggest we would be moving people against their wishes.”

But Labour councillors questioned why the policy change had been made if the council would simply continue to follow the same procedures it had always been doing.

Cllr Jo Cooper (Labour), East Barnet, said: “What looks different or is being done differently that will allow you to make the savings?”

Dawn Wakeling, strategic director of adults, communities and health, said the planned savings were “best estimates” that would be tracked throughout the year but are “never set in stone”.

Assistant director of adult social care James Mass said there had previously been a group of people who, when their support options were discussed, “that conversation probably did not give a lot of consideration to residential care”.

He added: “Our ethos, in line with the Care Act, is supporting people to be as independent as possible and remain in their own homes.

“For some people, residential or nursing care is the most appropriate care to meet their needs. We have got some excellent care homes in Barnet that provide really good service.

“I think what’s happening now is when social workers are having those conversations about what the best type of support is to meet their needs, they are fully exploring the range of options.”

But Cllr Reema Patel (Labour), Coppetts, called for the policy to be reversed.

She said: “It looks like there is a (savings) target, and the target has been agreed. There is really only a range of ways in which that can be made.

“There is £424,000 coming out of this budget – and that means there will be people who are worse off.”

The council says it will monitor moves from community to residential care and a review will take place after six months.