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"Do not contact us for this information" - Council criticised for leaving care patients in lurch with payments

PUBLISHED: 10:26 30 April 2019 | UPDATED: 10:26 30 April 2019

Cllr Helen Armitage said letters sent out by Suffolk County Council had left vulnerable people anxious about payments changes. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Cllr Helen Armitage said letters sent out by Suffolk County Council had left vulnerable people anxious about payments changes. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Sarah Lucy Brown

Vulnerable care patients in Suffolk are facing an anxious wait after thousands of letters were sent out warning them of changes to their annual financial assessment forms.

Sue Cook said the letters aimed to give people as much advanced notice of changes as possible. Picture: CONTRIBUTEDSue Cook said the letters aimed to give people as much advanced notice of changes as possible. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

The letters, issued on April 8 by Suffolk County Council's adult and community services team, said the traditional financial assessment forms handed out each year would be scrapped in favour of a computerised system.

But families say that the letters have caused anxiety for their loved ones who will have to wait for three weeks three weeks to find out what the changes are.

Around 4,800 letters were sent out and said that the council was not able to tell individuals what, if any, changes there would be. It added: “Please do not contact us to ask for this information”.

Georgina Sait, 53, from Beccles, whose family was among those to have received a letter, said: “The letter says these changes are happening but it didn't include what the cost rise might be.

“There is no-one we can ring. It's very worrying because we don't know what extra costs are going to be involved.”

Helen Armitage, Labour health spokeswoman, said she was disappointed with the way it had been handled.

She said: “The letters sent out by Suffolk County Council are causing unnecessary distress to supported adults and their carers, leaving hundreds of residents in a state of limbo financially, not knowing whether their payments will reduce, increase or even stop altogether.

“The biggest outrage is that those currently in receipt of financial help for adult care and support have been explicitly told not to contact SCC for support and that they would have to wait several weeks before finding out whether they will continue to receive help and how much that will be; this just is not good enough.

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“People need to know exactly what these changes mean, and the council should be ashamed that they are leaving vulnerable people with no answers.”

But Sue Cook, director of people's services, said the letters had been intended to give people advanced warning of changes.

“We felt it important to be as transparent as possible about the change and present an honest timescale of the process.

We wanted to ensure that those we care for were fully prepared for any changes that are made,” she said.

“At that stage, we would not have been able to provide specific information about their individual outcomes.

“However, we were able to provide a timeframe of when they could expect to receive their personal outcome letter.

“The outcome letters, which will provide detailed information of how the reassessment will affect each individual, will also include a dedicated phone number and email address that can use to raise any queries.”

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