Making access to the internet an ‘essential allowance’ the “right thing to do”

Broadband BT junction box

Allowing for broadband costs, when financially assessing residents needing adult social care services, will come at a cost to council taxpayers but is the “right thing to do” a senior councillor has said.

The government provides a list of household expenses that councils must take into account when assessing a resident’s ability to contribute to their adult social care costs.

These allowances include rent, mortgages and council tax.

Councils have to make up the difference if they add extra deductions to their adult social care charging assessments.

A report presented to the Adult’s Services Overview & Scrutiny Committee yesterday (5 July) said the policy for 2022/23 has been updated to replace telephone costs with broadband costs when assessing a resident’s financial circumstances.

Councillor Dean Crofts (LibDems, Kingsbrook Ward), the portfolio holder for adult services, said: “What this policy does is allow our residents to keep more of their income before we start charging them for their care, and that’s a good thing.

“It just makes sense in this day and age that we prioritise broadband costs above landlines because you probably need one to get the other anyway.

“With all of the technology that’s available now within adult social care people need broadband in their homes to be able to access that technology,” he said.

Committee chair, councillor Roger Rigby (Conservative, Bromham & Biddenham Ward) asked: “Has this meant that the borough council has had to dip into its own pocket to make up the difference, or are we able to recover that from the government?”

Councillor Crofts said he understood that if the council goes beyond the costs the Department of Health allows for, then the council has to fund the difference.

“So there is a cost to this policy,” he said.

“When this was put to the portfolio holder for finance he just said it’s the right thing to do,” he added.

Councillor Crofts added that BT has a £15.99 social tariff for broadband, which residents on a low income can request from BT.

“But we’ve used £31.99 a month, I believe because that’s the average rate for the average consumer,” he said.

An assessment of the cost of this policy change will be reported at a later date.

by John Guinn
Local Democracy Reporter

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