Military veterans in West Norfolk look set to pay less for their social care if new plans drawn up by county council officials are backed next week.
Campaigners have been calling for a change in the rules which allow local authorities to charge former servicemen injured before April 2005 for care from their war pensions, but not those wounded since then.
Last month, East of England MEP Richard Howitt gave his support to the Insult to Injury campaign, which is being led by the Royal British Legion, when he met veterans and charity officials at the legion’s social club in Lynn.
During his visit, he urged councils across the region to act and called for local MPs to urge ministers to intervene.
Now, Norfolk County Council officers have urged members to back their proposals to end the charges in the county when they are debated next Monday, July 27.
A report to be presented to a full council meeting in Norwich recommends that veterans’ war pensions are completely disregarded when the amount that individuals have to pay for care is determined.
Officials estimate the change, if approved, will help around 100 former service personnel and cost around £400,000 to implement.
The change, which would be backdated to April this year, would be paid for from a £1.7 million sum which was transferred to adult social care reserves at the end of the last financial year.
The report said the council’s current position, under which only the first £10 of a war pension is disregarded from care cost calculations, was consistent with that of most other local authorities in England.
But it added: “In recognising the significant sacrifices made by war veterans who have returned to civilian life following an injury, it is the right thing for the council to amend its policy to fully disregard war disablement pensions from income assessments carried out when means testing to determine how much an individual must pay towards their residential and non-residential care costs.
“This will help to ensure fair and consistent treatment for all war veterans.”
And the recommendation has been warmly welcomed by the Lynn-based chairman of Norfolk’s Royal British Legion, Major William Kerr.
He said: “That’s absolutely brilliant. I congratulate the county council on a very good decision. Hopefully they will adopt the recommendation.”
But he said the “real answer” to solving the problem was still for the government to change the rules nationally.
And he hopes the county council’s move may help to increase the pressure on ministers to make a similar change nationally.
North West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham also welcomed the proposal, and praised the Lynn News for highlighting the issue.
Urging councillors to back the recommendation, he said: “It will bring a lot of relief to many people in the latter stages of retirement.”