A COUNCIL spending nearly half its budget on social care has received a mixed reaction after lessening the impact of a proposed increase in charges for lifeline transport services for elderly and disabled people.

North Yorkshire County Council’s executive member for adult social care Councillor Michael Harrison said the proposals to raise fees for travel to places such as day centres from £2.70 a day to £7.50 a journey would be phased in and capped at £30 a week. 

Cllr Harrison said the authority had listened to the views of service users and their families who told a consultation the charges were unreasonable, would impact on people on low incomes and may lead to people stopping using services.

He said while the authority was spending £2.2m annually on transport for social care users, it was receiving just £124,000 in contributions. He said the proposals would add a further £200,000 in contributions.

Ahead of the council’s health and adult services executive members committee considering the proposals, Cllr Harrison said the average cost of travel to a social care service using transport provided by the county council was more than £18 per journey due to the specialist care provided on board transport.

He said: “It is a high cost, but these services are a lifeline, they are extremely important to the end user. There is a huge gulf in the true cost of the service and what people are paying. We will continue to provide the service and subsidise it heavily, so it is extremely good value for money, but a bit more realistic.”

Nigel Ayre, of Healthwatch North Yorkshire, said: “If people are unable to access key services this could have a detrimental impact on their physical and mental wellbeing which could result in more costly care further down the line. It is a positive step that the council have looked to cap the costs, but this policy if implemented its impact will need to be carefully monitored.”

Simon Davidson, chief executive officer of Age UK North Yorkshire and Darlington said the charity recognised “the stark reality that money is not available to councils to subsidise services” as they have done.

He added: “The fact that North Yorkshire County Council has consulted service users is a good thing.”