§ Jacqui Smith
Councils have had the power to charge for non-residential social services since the 1948 National Assistance Act. Councils have wide discretion on how to set their charges, although it is stipulated that if they choose to charge for services, the charges generally should be 'reasonable'.
The Department issued statutory guidance to local councils for home care charges in November 2001. This guidance does not seek to change councils' power to charge, or not, but seeks to ensure that, where councils do charge, this will be based on fairer, well designed charging policies. An important principle of the guidance is that charges should not reduce a person's income below basic levels of income support plus a 25 per cent, buffer.