ELDERLY people in County Durham could have to pay more than £500 extra a year towards their social care costs.

Durham County Council is due to discuss plans to reduce the amount of income people are left with after being charged for non-residential care and support, which would raise an estimated £800,000 over three years.

If approved, the move will hit pensioners the hardest – costing single people aged over 65 up to £530.40 a year and couples aged over 65 up to £401.96 a year.

Those aged between 25 and 64 would lose less. The council has calculated that someone in that age bracket in receipt of employment and support allowance (ESA) could have to pay an extra £18.20 a year.

Councillor Lucy Hovvels, cabinet member for adult and health services, said: “Our means-test financial assessments ensure that people only pay what they can afford and these changes will mean everyone is treated fairly and consistently.”

The changes would bring the authority in line with the latest Department of Health guidance, already used by councils in Newcastle, Sunderland, Northumberland and Gateshead.

The council currently gives people a 25 per cent buffer on top of the guaranteed minimum income, which it is proposing should be reduced to 18.6 per cent.

The authority is proposing the changes would affect new users to the service from April 2018 and will not apply to people already getting non-residential care.

Sixty per cent of the 6,380 people currently receiving the service are aged 65 or over, while 41 per cent have learning disabilities, mental health problems or physical disabilities.

The council’s cabinet is expected to approve a 12-week-consultation on the proposal at a meeting next week.

The changes are included in the council’s proposed savings in next year’s budget, which include £5.6m from adult care services, £2.7m from children’s services and increasing charges for residents for things like waste collection, burial charges and pest control.

It expects to have to cut a further £15.3m from the budget next year, on top of £209m saved since 2011.

The proposed budget also includes a council tax rise of 1.99 per cent, a two per cent increase in the adult social care precept.