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Ross 'disappointed' over disabled facilities charge decision

By Alan Beresford

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MORAY MP Douglas Ross has expressed his disappointment that Moray Health and Social Care Partnership (MHSCP) is refusing to reconsider its decision to charge users for maintenance of disabled facilities.

Douglas Ross MP.
Douglas Ross MP.

Mr Ross has been pressing for a change of heart on the matter after being contacted by concerned constituents who had received bills "out of the blue" for the use of various disabled facilities.

He said: “I’m extremely disappointed by this response as I was hopeful that they would rethink this decision which effectively penalises disabled and vulnerable people.

“It just isn’t good enough. A number of local residents contacted me as they had received a bill out of the blue for £108 per year to maintain their Clos-o-mat wash/dry disabled toilet.

“Some were even asked to pay a backdated amount from April, even though no bill had been presented to them prior to this. Some have had these toilets for several years and have never been asked to pay before while others had recently had one installed and weren’t told there would be a maintenance charge.

“In their response to me, the MHSCP manager stated this decision had been made by councillors earlier this year and was being looked at in the same way as the service charge for a disabled lift. But I find this a very poor answer; disabled people shouldn’t be charged extra for this basic human necessity and a lot of people have contacted me since this went public to express their anger and humiliation at their circumstances and feel they are being taken advantage of.

“I have been reassured if they can’t pay the toilet won’t be removed, but how is that going to work going forward? Is their bill going to add up and they will just be further in debt? This equipment was installed because they each have a particular need for a toileting aid so it’s just wrong they are being targeted in this way.

“For disabled people, having a disabled toilet is a basic necessity. It’s not a luxury item and this has caused considerable anxiety and upset and I’m asking again for MHSCP to re-visit their decision and urgently scrap this charge.”

Charges for social care services are agreed each year by the Moray Integration Joint Board for recommendation to Moray Council.

A contribution towards the annual maintenance cost of wash dry toilets – bringing Moray in line with other Scottish authorities – had been agreed in November 2018. However, this was not implemented from April 1, 2019 as planned.

Revisions to charges for services, including aids and adaptations, were agreed for this financial year in November 2019 following a benchmarking exercise against other local authorities in Scotland. This included setting the wash dry toilet maintenance contribution at £27.04 per quarter.

Charging contributes towards the sustainability of services which support residents to continue living independently in their own homes in line with MHSCP’s Home First approach, said a spokesperson for Health and Social Care Moray.

“Wash dry toilets are installed free of charge following assessment by an occupational therapist. The annual maintenance charge is a contribution towards the cost of regular servicing and any repairs needed.

“We appreciate that any charges may have a financial impact on service users. We will continue to work with service users and in collaboration with Moray Council’s Income Maximisation Team to ensure all individuals are getting the benefits assistance they are entitled to so no one who really needs a service has to give it up.

"We monitor the impact and mitigation of all charging decisions in line with our responsibilities under the Fairer Scotland Duty.”

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