VULNERABLE adults face being asked to pay £1million in extra charges for services under proposals being considered by East Lothian Council.

Day centre users could be charged up to £10 a day to use council-run facilities, with potentially an additional £8 for transport to and from the centres.

Services which already charge could see payment hikes of up to 30 per cent, including lunch club meals, care at home and respite.

A report commissioned by the council from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) outlines how the local authority could generate additional funding of £1.058million by increasing charges for some services and introducing new ones.

It highlights that East Lothian’s charges are the second lowest in all of Scotland’s local authority areas and says that they only generate 13 per cent of the cost of social work services from charging, while the Scottish average is 25 per cent.

The report reveals that the current charges for care alarms, care homes and care at home are all below the national average.

The only service which bucks the trend is respite, which costs £874 a week in East Lothian compared to a national average of just £346.

Among the proposed changes put forward by PwC are doubling the £2 charge for community alarms to £4 and increasing the cost of care home stays.

Day care centres, which have been free until now, would charge £5 per half-day session or £10 for a full day, with transport charged at £4 each way, and new charges would be introduced for those who are assessed as being able to pay for housing support.

Andrew Tweedy, director of Carers of East Lothian, said the group had concerns about some of the figures put forward.

He said: “We have questions about some of the figures, including the suggestion charges in East Lothian are the second lowest in the country, and would like more information.

“We are urging the local authority to show caution when it comes to imposing charges on the most vulnerable people in our society.

“These are essential services which are provided to people, many of whom are on fixed incomes and low incomes.

“We need to recognise we are asking disabled people on low incomes to pay more towards services.

“The first way to pay for these services should be general tax.”

The proposals have been put out to public consultation by East Lothian Health and Social Care Partnership, which provides adult social care services alongside NHS provision.

Public meetings have been arranged to discuss changes over the next two weeks: Fisherrow Centre, this Tuesday, 6.30-8pm; Port Seton Centre next Thursday (February 8), 11.30am-1pm; and Tynebank Resource Centre, Haddington, next Wednesday (February 14), 6.30-8.30pm.

Councillor Brian Small (Conservative), leader of the opposition on East Lothian Council, said public consultation on charges was essential before action was taken but added that people who could pay for services should expect to be asked.

But he warned: “The council needs to change its approach and understand that if it charges people for a service then it will have to provide it at a high standard.

“We need to consult on these issues and look at charging where people can afford to pay while protecting those who need it.”

Councillor Stuart Currie, SNP Group leader, said: “SNP councillors will not support new adult social care charges this year.

“We believe that there needs to be a full and meaningful consultation with our communities and stakeholders to consider what is appropriate for future years.

“In addition, there must be an equality impact assessment to inform these discussions.

“It would be ridiculous to have made the decision to impose new charges and then consult and consider the impact on vulnerable people in this county.”

The consultation, which was posted on the council consultation hub last week, states that charges will be introduced from April if approved.