One of the country’s leading self-advocacy organisations will be forced to close next month, after a council withdrew its funding without any warning.
Members of People First Lambeth (PFL), run by people with learning difficulties and set up in 1985, said the decision by Lambeth council not to renew annual contracts worth £118,000 meant it would close on 31 March.
The funding makes up 94 per cent of PFL’s annual revenue. Two people with learning difficulties will lose their jobs.
PFL members have trained doctors and other public sector workers, run support groups, and have written a book which is on the Royal College of Nursing’s recommended reading list.
PFL has worked with organisations such as the government’s Valuing People Now team and the Social Care Institute for Excellence.
The council’s decision came only two months after PFL members wrote to the prime minister and deputy prime minister to protest about the impact of the coalition’s spending cuts on people with learning difficulties. They have yet to receive a reply.
Georgina Barrett, one of PFL’s members, said: “As far as I am concerned they sit on their butts and do all the paperwork but they don’t come and see how we operate and what we do.
“My message would be: you are not going to find an organisation like this and you are going to regret what you have done. It is very sad.”
Jennifer Taylor, another member, said: “I think it is very sad why the government have done this to us. I am disgusted. Where are people with learning difficulties going to go and what are they going to do with their lives?”
Lambeth council said it had to find savings of £79 million over three years, about a third of its budget, due to government cuts.
Cllr Jim Dickson, the council’s cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said: “We’ve worked hard to protect funding for dozens of organisations that do important work with vulnerable adults across the borough, but for a number of reasons, we have had to take the decision not to renew our contracts with People First Lambeth.”
He said the council planned to cut £200,000 from services for people with learning difficulties, less than one per cent of its spending in this area.
He added: “We will of course be working with People First Lambeth to make sure their clients are directed to other sources of support.”
To watch a film made by PFL about the decision to remove its funding, visit: www.youtube.com/watch?v=os9_5pmXUUw
9 February 2011