Grants that 'make all the difference' to carers could be scrapped by 2015
CASH set aside to improve the quality of life for Derby's carers could be a thing of the past by 2015, a leading councillor has warned.
Carers can apply to the city council for one-off grants to pay for things like holidays, gym membership and internet access, where they can show this would help them carry out their role.
The carers say it is a vital way of keeping them physically and mentally healthy.
But Derby City Council's leadership says it may not have a choice but to remove the cash by 2015, due to cuts in Government funding, inflation and the city's growing population.
Vita Snowden attended a public meeting about funding for carers held by the city council yesterday.
Ms Snowden, of Derby, who has spent three years looking after her disabled mother full time, said: "It makes all the difference. These sort of things are often the one opportunity carers have to get out and do something for themselves – a break from providing a 24-hour service.
"If only 10% of us didn't carry on caring for our loved ones and they went into residential care, it would cost the council about £13 million."
She told the meeting she hoped the Government's new Care and Support Bill, set to become law in 2014, would protect things like funding carer holidays.
But Fareed Hussain, cabinet member for adult social care, said he did not believe the law would be that "proscriptive".
He said: "I think providing support for carers may well become a statutory service but I don't think the law will specify what support that must be.
"By the 2015-16 financial year, these kind of services could be gone."
As part of its plans to save £62.4m over the next three years, the council wants to reduce its budget for helping carers by £568,000.
There would be £225,000 cut from the 2013-14 funding, including cash to pay for carers to get benefits advice.
Another £16,000 is set to go in 2014-15 and £327,000 in 2015-16.
Mr Hussain said it was not yet known where the 2015-16 money would be saved but that much of this could come from not paying for things like holidays and gym membership.
He said the council would continue to provide services that protect vulnerable individuals and that this would include respite for carers, even in 2015-16.
This means the council would continue to pay for cared-for people to be looked after elsewhere for between four and six weeks a year.
Asked to justify reduced personal budgets at yesterday's Council House meeting, Mr Hussain said: "If you are not going to be putting anybody at significant risk then I have been forced to say yes to cuts.
"If, by doing what is planned, there is a risk then I will say no."
He added that he had seen "no evidence whatsoever" that suggested the council would save on residential care costs if it put more money into the carers budget.