These remarks are misleading

REGARDING the article in the Weston Mercury about the young man, Virgil Taylor, who has to pay for day care whilst working at the Town Hall.

REGARDING the article in the Weston Mercury about the young man, Virgil Taylor, who has to pay for day care whilst working at the Town Hall. I don't think anyone could fail to see the irony in this case. May I draw your attention to Councillor Ian Peddlesden's remark about the charges: 'they pay for transport and also lunch, if care service users spend whole days at sessions'. These remarks are misleading. Some parents provide their own transport to and from the William Knowles Day Centre and the service users, including my two sons, individually pay each week, from their benefits, for their lunches and activities.

One of my sons spends a day in the community at Barcode in the town centre where he cleans the windows and the cloakrooms. He does not get paid for this but it is something he enjoys and makes him feel that his is contributing something to society. I would not stop him from doing 'his job' but this charging policy means that he is going to have to pay £5, i.e. £2.50 per session, morning and afternoon, for that 'privilege'. I am at a loss to know why this vulnerable group of people with learning disabilities, who are being encouraged to go out and work in the community, in many cases without payment, along with the elderly and mental health groups, are being targeted by North Somerset Council in order to make up a shortfall in their budget.

I and many other parents are shocked that this matter only came to our attention about a month ago, without any consultation with service users, carers or parents. We were told charges would take effect from July 1, 2008, whether or not the service users had been assessed in the short time scale that was available, and the charges would be backdated from July 1, although I note from your report that according to a North Somerset Council spokesperson, 'people are still being assessed to establish how much they will be charged and until they are spoken to, they will not have to pay'. Does that mean you will only have to pay from the time you are assessed or are the payments still to be backdated to July 1?

In fact, in a report to adult services and housing policy and scrutiny panel dated November 7, 2007, it was stated 'the introduction of charging for all service groups is sensitive and will require full consultation, as part of the budget process, with user groups, if the option to charge is selected'. Yet in the minutes of the panel held on February 6, 2008 it was stated 'service users would be notified in advance of the introduction of charges but there would be no consultation on options for introducing day care charging'. Members present expressed concern that the working group had not been provided with sufficient information to enable them to decide whether to support the introduction of day care charges and the recommendation was that 'the executive be advised that the panel does not feel that it has sufficient in depth information to be able to fully support the introduction of day care charges for 2008/09 and also had concerns regarding the lack of consultation prior to the introduction of such charges'.


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This policy looks as if it is going ahead, without consultation with service users, parents and carers, and with complete disregard for the confusion and concerns that this charging policy has raised.

RONNIE O'CONNELL

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Colombo Crescent, Weston

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