Evidence grows of cuts to support


Disabled people are providing growing evidence that councils across the country are cutting the support they need to live independently.

Disability News Service has spoken to a succession of disabled people who say that their local authorities are cutting support packages.

Paul Bowley, a disabled activist in Dudley, said the council had been cutting people’s support after moving them from direct payments to personal budgets.

He said: “People who were on direct payments and are now on personal budgets are talking about a 33 to 50 per cent cut but probably closer to 50 per cent. That is based on what a lot of disabled people are telling us.

“It is absolutely scandalous. It is horrendous. From what I have seen it is across the board. This is before the budget cuts come in. Heaven knows what will happen afterwards.”

In another urban borough, a disabled man, David (not his real name), has been given a package of four hours a week over four visits, plus one night visit a week. Another man in the same borough with a similar level of support need, who died earlier this year, had been receiving 24-hour support.

David’s partner said: “I was always led to believe that he would get 24-hour care. Right from the word go in all the hospitals they said he will always need 24-hour care.”

But she said she was told by a social worker: “If it had been so many months earlier he would have got it [24-hour care], but they have cut the packages and at the moment this is what we can offer…because of the cuts.”

A manager working for the borough’s centre for independent living said: “There is clear evidence that services are changing. The packages aren’t as big as they used to be. It is looking like it is going backwards from community care. It could be that people will be going into nursing homes.”

Disabled people in the London borough of Brent say they have also been told by their council that they will have their hours halved.

One disabled woman from Brent said: “The council have said that things are going to be cut. Everybody was saying they have been told that they will be cutting support from November.

“They are scared, they are really scared. They don’t know what is going to happen.”

A Brent council spokesman denied it had any plans to cut services for disabled people living independently at home.

A Dudley council spokesman also denied any policy of cutting support and said there was “no general policy to reassess care packages across client groups as a cost-cutting measure”.

But he accepted that there had been a “slight reduction” in the council’s budget for residential, nursing and community care this year.

Sue Bott, director of the National Centre for Independent Living (NCIL), said that local councils appeared to be using personalisation as an excuse to reassess disabled people, who “find that they are coming out with a lesser amount [of support]than they went in”.

She said she believed disabled people across the country were having their packages cut, while councils were also abandoning limits on how much they charged people for services.

But she said NCIL was also noticing worsening relationships between disabled people and their local councils.

She said: “I have never noticed quite so much aggression as there seems to be now [from council staff].”

She said social workers were clearly “under pressure”. “I just think they are getting sandwiched in the middle of pressure from above and they also know the effects of the decisions that they are having on people.”

Meanwhile, the Coalition on Charging has pointed to evidence that disabled and older people and carers are being hit disproportionately by spending cuts in local authorities, with some councils planning to restrict access to support and raise service charges.

In a letter to council chief executives and directors of adult social care, the coalition urges them to ensure that they “plan cuts properly” and fully assess the impact of reducing access to essential care and increasing charges for services.

Neil Coyle, chair of the coalition – whose members include Disability Alliance, NCIL, Disability Law Service and RADAR – warned councils not to raid care budgets “as an easy option”.

He said: “Over the past decade access to care has been heavily restricted and charges for support have risen hugely. There is no more blood to be squeezed from the stone.”

30 September 2010

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