AN elderly Hampshire couple may lose out on a key service after its price looks set to double.
Every week dementia sufferer Valerie Gorman and her husband Jim look forward to the treasured six hours a week she gets to spend at a Southampton day centre.
But the couple from Lordshill fear they may be forced to give up this vital lifeline after being told the bill for using the day centre is going to double.
Valerie is just one of more than 550 people that are being forced to pay more for adult services after cash-strapped Southampton City Council bosses hiked up charges to save money.
The price increases have been branded “disgusting” by Mr Gorman, while campaigners for the elderly fear that such big increases will leave pensioners with no choice but to give up the basic services they rely on.
But Labour chiefs insist that the changes they have introduced, which they have phased in over two years in a bid to ease pressure on purse strings, will only see a “small number of individuals” faced with “significantly” higher bills.
The changes are being implemented following a review last year into council policy towards contribution costs for non-residential care for adults.
Under these changes it was agreed that those who are financially assessed as being able to afford it, the maximum contribution for day services would increase from £13.69 to the actual cost of the service.
A total of 556 people across the city are affected by these changes, but their financial situation will determine how much more they will have to pay.
Mr Gorman and his wife are one couple who have seen their bill jump from £88 a month to £176 under the changes.
He fears he won’t be able to afford to send his 74-year-old wife, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s three years ago, to Woodside Lodge Day Centre in Wimpson Lane, Millbrook, for much longer.
For her, it is the highlight of the week, when she can chat with friends and for him, it’s a chance to get to grips with household chores and errands knowing that his wife is in safe hands.
The retired bricklayer, 69, said: “It is an awful lot of money. Because I have worked all my life and saved up I have got to pay the full amount while someone who went to the pub and didn’t save their money gets it for less.
“I’m disgusted by it all and am worried about what it will mean if we can no longer afford it.
“I couldn’t believe it when they called to say that they’re going to charge 100 per cent more. We’re paying enough as it is.”
His wife added: “I’m really disgusted. I think it is a lot of money. I get to meet a lot of people at the centre and I’ve made quite a few friends from going there.
“I’d hate not be able to go there. It would be horrible. I really enjoy it and I look forward to it every week.”
Peter Bennie, chief officer of Age UK Southampton shares their concerns and believes their situation will be replicated across the city.
He added: “These changes affect not just the elderly but the disabled, vulnerable people who would have been impacted by these cuts.
“I think the immediate decision that some people are going to have to make is can I or can I not afford to carry on accessing this type of care.
“In some instances it is a service they have been able to access for quite some time and all of a sudden they can’t, which is harsh.”
A spokesperson from the council said that while they recognised there would be a high increase for a small number of people, the charges have been phased over two years to help reduce the impact of the changes.
They added: “Anyone who indicates that they will stop services will be visited and their needs reviewed.
“No one will ever be left without a service because of inability to pay their contribution towards the cost.”