PEOPLE with disabilities in Barnet have formed a group to fight recent changes to the council’s support services which mean they have to pay more for their essential care. Barnet Council introduced the Fairer Contributions policy in April this year.

It means people who use its support services are financially assessed and have to make a contribution to their costs.

Under the policy, anyone with savings of more than £23,250 is expected to pay the full cost of their care.

Jeffrey Leifer, 74, of Moss Hall Grove, in North Finchley, had his left leg amputated above the knee. His wife Janet is at the forefront of the Campaign Against the Destruction of Disabled Support Services (CADDSS), which has been established to “campaign on behalf of all those who are in danger of losing their support services”.

Prior to this policy, were offered to people whose needs were assessed as “critical and substantial” free of charge.

For over two years Mr Leifer has attended a day centre twice a week run by Jewish Care, a voluntary organisation.

Barnet Council funded these visits as they considered his social care needs to be “critical and substantial”.

Since the changes came into effect in June, Mrs Leifer says they have been overcharged and received incorrect invoices.

She said they were charged for a week in June when the centre was closed – he had been overcharged by £25.

Despite writing to the council asking for a correct invoice, Mrs Leifer has not received a response, but has received a reminder and a final notice.

Mr Leifer also received an invoice for August, which charged him for eight days’ care, when he had only attended the day centre four times.

The charge per day, which was quoted by a senior council officer at a meeting at Mr Leifer’s day care centre in May as £36.83 had also altered to £37, Mrs Leifer said.

“I have been informed by the senior Council officer that there was no intention to charge for days when a service user did not attend the day centre, however the service user would be charged the full amount initially and when Barnet Adult Social Care and Health had reconciled the returns from the day centre the service user would be credited for the days he did not attend.”

Janet said no time scale had been given for when reimbursements would be made.

“We were very concerned about the costs we were now facing and we certainly did not feel that the consultation document and questionnaire we had received in any way prepared us for the shock of what we would now have to pay.”

“My husband and I find ourselves stuck between a rock and a hard place, one of the ‘squeezed middle’, but since joining CADDSS we have heard stories of much worse situations.”

Councillor Sachin Rajput, Cabinet Member for Adults, said: "Barnet, like all other local authorities across the country, is asking people to make a contribution towards their support based on a set of nationally agreed financial criteria. We have to find ways to support a growing number of people in need of care with a smaller pot of money.

"No-one is asked to pay more than they can afford and with a baseline threshold in place to protect those with limited income, those people will not have to pay at all."

"There is an appeals process if anyone is unhappy with their assessment. Safeguarding remains our priority and we automatically assess anyone who cancels their care package to make sure no individual is at risk."

" Under the new Fairer Contributions Policy nobody should pay for more care than they receive."

"If people use fewer sessions than they have paid for we will reimburse them, however it's important that they notify us in advance if they are not attending a session so we can offer it to someone else."

Janet is appealing for others who have had support services cut or reduced as a result of policies introduced by Barnet Council to join the campaign by contacting CADDSS by email or phone 07957 486379.