ABOUT 1,700 people who pay Oxfordshire County Council for adult social care could be asked to pay an extra £1,560 a year.

Critics say the changes that could be introduced in 2018, would create a ‘postcode lottery’ across the county, while the council said it would make things fairer for people paying for care across Oxfordshire.

About 4,800 people currently pay the council for their care. Increased charges would need to be paid by about 35 per cent of those, with the price hikes dependent on where people live and receive their care and from which care provider they get it from.

Liz Brighouse, the Labour Party’s leader on Oxfordshire County Council, said members had been shocked to find that charges would be imposed and that it was the biggest issue in the council’s 2018/19 budget.

She said: “Members were quite astounded when they found that it became something like a postcode lottery, with a range between £17 and £27 per hour depending on where they lived in the county and what was available.”

The Oxford Mail understands that the biggest increase in charges could top £30 per week for some people.

The council said it expected about 1,300 people would be left better off and will save about £10 on a week – while another 1,800 would pay the same.

It said different fees would seek to reduce variation in assessments and ensure that paying for adult social care is clear, regardless of where recipients live.

David Bartholomew, cabinet member for finance, said: “It is most definitely not a postcode lottery.

"It’s simply a reflection of the costs that people incur when they choose to live in a specific area and the council, instead of averaging out all the charges, is simply reflecting actual market rates in that area.

"It’s not a postcode lottery. If you choose to live in Henley-on-Thames, that has very high property prices, and that is reflected in costs in almost everything.

“If you choose to live in Didcot, the prices, property prices and costs to run a business are lower and that will be reflected.

"This is the market rate for the area.”

The council also hopes to introduce an annual fee to reflect the cost of monitoring and managing a person’s care – but initial fees would decrease.

Overall, about 6,800 clients receive care organised by the council but about 2,000 make no contribution to the costs of their care.

Age UK Oxfordshire’s chief executive Penny Thewlis said: “Paying for care is an area fraught with confusion and difficulty for people.

"Many people assume that social care, like NHS care, is free or people who need it. This is not the case and the complexity of the charging policies adds a further layer of difficulty for people, when they are already grappling with enough difficulties.”

She said it showed that there needed to be a public debate, insisting a properly funded social care system that meets people’s needs is of ‘paramount importance.’

Earlier this year, protesters rallied outside the council’s County Hall headquarters as its cabinet backed changes to service provision for disabled and elderly people.

As part of that, the number of adult day centres funded by the council fell from 22 to eight.

The move was agreed in an attempt to save £3.14m a year by 2019.

The remaining centres are in: Abingdon, Banbury, Bicester, Didcot, Oxford, Wallingford, Witney and Wantage.