Chronic pain campaigners in Moray have branded a new fee to service a toilet for people who are unable to clean themselves as an “absolute disgrace”.
The wash and dry equipment is installed in the homes of people with specific physical disabilities to ensure they can continue to have a quality of life while living independently at home without the need for care.
Some have had the toilets in their home for more than a decade without having to pay for the required annual service.
However, letters sent by Health and Social Care Moray last week informed users that they would now have to pay £108.16 every year for the maintenance.
Yesterday the organisation, which is a Moray Council and NHS Grampian partnership, explained the changes would help to ensure services were more sustainable amid budget pressures.
But concerns have been raised that the increase will hit some of the most vulnerable people in society.
Chris Bridgeford, chairman of chronic pain group Affa Sair, who also has one of the toilets, said: “None of us were made aware of this before getting the letter, none of us signed an agreement saying we would pay the charges.
“Trying to apply this is an absolute disgrace. People who have had this appliance installed need them because we are unable to perform one of the most basic of human functions – it’s not a luxury item.
“The vast majority of people who need these will be living on benefits so imposing a charge will no doubt be difficult for many to afford.
“Yet again the most vulnerable in our society suffer even more from decision makers with little knowledge or understanding of what a disability is really like.”
Health and Social Care Moray’s board agreed the service charge for the toilets with other price increases including stair lift maintenance, community alarms and the hire of day centre rooms.
A report produced ahead of the meeting said the new fees brought prices in Moray more in line with the Scottish average.
A spokeswoman for Health and Social Care Moray said: “Wash dry toilets are installed free of charge following assessment by an occupational therapist. The contribution towards the annual maintenance covers servicing and any repairs needed.
“We appreciate that any charges may have a financial impact on service users. We will continue to work with service users and in collaboration with Moray Council’s income maximisation team to ensure all individuals are getting the benefits assistance they are entitled to so no one who really needs a service has to give it up.”