MORE than 2,000 vulnerable Islanders are facing increased Isle of Wight Council discretionary care costs.

The move has been criticised for a lack of consultation with those who would be most affected.

The £101,000 fee increase for the Wightcare emergency care response service for vulnerable people was originally passed in the authority's 2022/23 budget in February.

The 13 per cent price hike has been paused, though, so the council's cabinet can agree a business review of the service, after concerns were raised over its affordability.

Which charges could increase?

  • The one-off installation charge for the service from £80 to £90
  • Monitoring from £6.80 to £7.70
  • Monitoring and response from £9.72 to £11
  • Telecare from £11.25 to £12.73

Fees for Wightcare were last raised in 2018 but there is a growing gap between how much it costs to run the service (£1,416,693 a year) and how much it makes.

In the last few years, the council has subsidised the service, paying out nearly £300,000 in the 2021/22 year and is facing a substantial overspend in this financial year.

The service is said to be a significant risk to the council with further costs expected due to inflation, technology investments and personnel costs.

To bring the service to a break-even position, the authority would need to raise charges by 36 per cent but has decided to do so in stages.

In February, the increase in Wightcare fees was highlighted by Cllr Andrew Garratt who was concerned the hike would be 'brought through the back door' and it should come through a process of consultation and scrutiny.

Cllr Garratt had proposed an amendment to the budget which would only see Wightcare fees increase by three per cent, not 13.

He withdrew his amendment, however, and gave his support to the ruling Alliance administration with the proviso consultation should be undertaken, and that if there was evidence from the public it was not a viable proposal, it should be substituted for something else.

Isle of Wight County Press:

In the council's report on the Wightcare increases, however, there is no mention of public consultation, apart from the generic budget consultation undertaken before the budget was produced.

In an equality impact assessment, the changes were said to have a negative impact on some service users who are elderly or have a disability.

Speaking about the report, Cllr Garratt said he was disappointed with it and it was not fit for cabinet to make a decision on.

He called for the matter to be put on hold while there was a consultation and it was not what was promised to him in February.

The council missed the opportunity, Cllr Garratt said, to get this right and properly engage with service users.

If cabinet agree to go ahead with the proposals on Thursday (May 11), fees would increase as approved in February from July 1, or as early as possible.