CONCERNS over the impact of a 350 per cent rise in charges for Oxfordshire’s day centres have led to a rethink.

The inflation-busting increases were due to come into effect in April but now will be staggered over three years instead.

Oxfordshire County Council wants to increase fees at seven of its larger day centres – and one run by Leonard Cheshire in Witney – to £15 per day, and put up charges for transport and meals.

Charges at the seven centres are currently £4.18 per session – with users of The Elms in Witney paying £1.30 per day – but all will rise to £15 by April 2015 under the plans.

The compromise was unveiled at yesterday’s meeting of the council’s adult services scrutiny committee.

Labour county councillor Gill Sanders, who is also the city council’s older people’s champion, said bad planning had caused the need for the hikes.

She said: “I fully recognise the need to increase the charges, and I think the county council should have increased them over the years. I think you have left it too long and that’s why we have ended up needing these massive charges, which will have serious effects.”

She said she welcomed plans to phase the increases but still had concerns.

Witney resident and Friends of The Elms member Laura Price said the proposals had caused “confusion and worry”. She said: “It’s a really big change for people to get their heads around.”

Cabinet member for adult services Arash Fatemian said: “The county council’s commitment to day centres is resolute, and I will refute any charge otherwise.

“Traditionally the charges for the centres have been very low, and we have tried to keep them as low as possible. With the benefit of hindsight that might not have been the best idea.”

At the moment the services are heavily subsidised, with users paying £4.18 for sessions which cost the council at least £30 per head.

The council spends £3.7m per year on the seven larger centres.

Under the proposals, people already eligible for financial help with social care will be able to use their personal allowance to attend the centres and a “waiver system” will be set up for people who claim they cannot afford the fees.

But concerns have been raised that those who aren’t entitled to “Fair Access to Care Services” money will abandon centres once the fees go up. A consultation on the original plans showed 70 per cent of the 461 users who responded to the consultation said they would continue to attend, despite the plans.

Labour councillor John Sanders said: “You have said you are going to support these people, but that support will depend on people asking for it.

“You’re going to end up with a reduction in users of at least one third, and I want to know if that is going to be sustainable.”

The council is planning to introduce charges of £7.50 per five-hour session in September 2013, which will go up to £10 in April 2014, finally reaching £15 in April 2015.

The proposed increases will raise £288,200 in the first six months, £425,300 in the year up to April 2015 and a further £560,300 from April 2015 to the following March.

The total cost of attending, including transport and food, will go up 150 per cent, from £10 to £25.



DAY centres affected by the changes:
Wallingford, Bicester, Oxford Options (Horspath), Wantage, Didcot, Banbury, Abingdon, Witney and The Elms (Witney).

Current charges:

£4.18 per five-hour session (£1.30 at The Elms), 82p for transport, £5 for lunch

Proposed charges: From September 2013

  • £7.50 per five-hour session
  • £4.50 per three-hour session
  • £5 for transport, £5 for lunch
  • Income: £288,200

April 2014 to April 2015

  • £10 per five-hour session
  • £6 per three-hour session
  • £5 for transport, £5 for lunch
  • Income: £425,300

April 2015 to March 2016

  • £15 per five-hour session
  • £9 per three-hour session
  • £5 for transport, £5 for lunch
  • Income: £560,300