DISABLED people across Essex could be exploited by callous carers under a new Government scheme, according to campaigners.

Disability Essex believes Whitehall’s Right to Control project, which gives people the option to receive their benefits in cash payments rather than through the council, is open to abuse.

The scheme is being tried out by Essex County Council, but not Southend Council, and campaigners say ministers have not done enough to close its loopholes.

Richard Boyd, chief executive of Disability Essex, said: “They have ignored the elephant in the room – namely that some carers do not actually like the person they look after.

“There are examples of people who have a frail or elderly relative and see that person as a money box.

“It worries us that there appears to be no failsafe to stop the system being abused in this way.”

At the moment, state benefits for disabled people are sent to the responsible authority – Essex County Council or Southend Council – which then co-ordinates and pays for services and treatment.

Under the new system, claimaints will be given the option to take a direct cash handout from the Government and decide how to spend the money themselves.

If they do not want to embrace the change, they can also continue with their existing set-up or pay another public body to broker a new deal for them.

The county council is one of only five authorites which have already adopted the scheme, with set-up costs of £7million paid by the Government. More councils are due to follow next year.

Ann Naylor, councillor for adults, health and community well-being, said: “The council is pleased this change has come about.

“It is important individuals have control.

“Every person has different requirements, which the Right to Control scheme recognises. This allows the service user to select services which suit them and their needs.”