SOCIAL services managers in Birmingham have defended a decision to abolish a £100 a week maximum charge for home help services, insisting that the change will only affect elderly people who can afford to pay.

Fewer than five per cent of clients – 317 out of 8,000 people – will have to find the full cost of care when the new system gets underway next year.

They pay a maximum £100 at the moment – but the weekly bill in the majority of cases will rise to as much as £400 from April.

A handful of people with the most complex care needs will pay up to £700 a week.

Only people with substantial savings, more than £22,250, will have to pay the additional charges.

Cabinet adults and communities member Sue Anderson said Birmingham had been out of step with most other councils for a number of years by retaining a system where maximum charges were capped.

The change would produce a fairer system based on a person’s ability to pay, she said.

Coun Anderson (Lib Dem Sheldon) said: “We are moving away from the out-dated ‘one size fits all’ care model and helping people remain as independent as possible for as long as possible, meaning a move away from traditional residential care towards domiciliary and day care for many people.

“This means that, in line with many local authorities, a cap on non-residential services, particularly for those with significant resources, is no longer supportable. The financial cap can distort the fairness of charging as it puts a ceiling on the amount charged, regardless of a person’s ability to pay.

“A full assessment process will ensure that people only pay what they can afford.”

The council’s home care service charges £15 an hour for a basic service and £41 a day for older adults day care.

Opposition Labour leader Sir Albert Bore said elderly people would be “frightened” that their life savings would be quickly swallowed by the new charges.

Sir Albert (Lab Ladywood), who put the cap in place in 2003 when he was leader of the council, added: “A lot of people will feel they can’t afford the care packages being involved and will go without.”