Sufffolk charity celebrates

A CHARITY is celebrating winning a three-year campaign, securing a Government U-turn which will save the disabled living in care homes from having to pay council tax.

A CHARITY is celebrating winning a three-year campaign, securing a Government U-turn which will save the disabled living in care homes from having to pay council tax.

Disability charity John Grooms, which runs the Icanho Brain Injury Rehabilitation Centre in Stowmarket, is celebrating having secured a Government U-turn on a policy that saw disabled care home residents penalized for superior standard residential care.

The three-year battle saw residents penalized by council tax bills as officials decided that the spacious and well-equipped private rooms constituted independent living.

The legislative change was announced in the House of Commons by Nick Raynsford MP, who recognized the battle fought by John Grooms to improve standards in residential care.

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John Grooms executive director Mike Shaw said: "This really is a victory for common sense and for over half a million people living in residential care homes.

"John Grooms has always been at the cutting edge of services to disabled people but our commitment to excellence placed us "head to head" with government red tape.

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"The provision of en-suite and kitchen facilities within individual bed-sits is central to John Grooms philosophy of promoting independence and choice. We are pleased that the Government has recognized this anomaly and is willing to put it right.''

The announcement comes shortly before John Grooms was expecting to fight the matter in the High Court.

Mr Shaw said: "The cost of defending a High Court action was estimated in the region of £100,000, a massive sum. We can now look forward to spending John Grooms charitable funds on continuing to provide first class services to disabled people.''

In a statement the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's(ODPM) said they had moved to relieve the council tax burden on older and disabled people living in care homes.

Local Government Minister, Nick Raynsford, announced the Government's intention to change legislation to ensure that all registered care homes in England are assessed for council tax as a single residence, even where they provide self-contained units for independent living.

The proposals would see one council tax bill issued to the care home, with the owner responsible for paying.

Overall, the council tax burden on a care home with self-contained units will be lower as a result of this change because the single bill for the owner will be less than the total of the bills for individual units.

In a statement to Parliament Mr Raynsford said: "The Government recognizes the need to address the question of council tax liability for self-contained units within care homes, in the light of appeals involving the John Grooms organization and the Royal National Institute of the Blind.

"We aim to change the legislation later this year.''

The ODPM will consult on the proposals within the next two weeks.

John Grooms is a national charity providing care, housing, holidays and training for disabled people, driven by the belief that they deserve the dignity and self-respect which all members of society expect.

John Grooms' work includes people who have cerebral palsy, spina bifida, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy as well as acquired spinal or head injuries.

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