Minister ‘must stop making false claims’ on cuts to support


Labour’s social care spokeswoman has accused a government minister of making “false claims” about cuts to care and support services.

The MP spoke out in a parliamentary debate on social care, days after thousands of disabled people had marched through London in protest at the government’s spending cuts and welfare reforms.

It came as Scope released the findings of a survey which the charity said suggested that the debate around the coalition’s welfare reforms, which has often led to disabled people being labelled as “scroungers”, had led to an increase in disability-related hostility.

More than a third of disabled people (37 per cent) said attitudes towards them had worsened over the last year (against 15 per cent who said they had improved).

Alex Cunningham, the Labour MP who secured the Commons debate, said demonstrators who took part in last week’s “Hardest Hit” march and rally had “every right to be angry” because they would be “the hardest hit by the government’s proposed cuts to disability benefits and the hardest hit by the swingeing cuts to council services”.

He accused the government of “seeking to soften people up and lower their expectations, to get them to accept a return to reliance on family and buying from the open market with their own funds, or a patchwork of precarious charitable provision from a third sector suffering its own cuts and challenges”.

Emily Thornberry MP, the shadow care services minister, accused the Liberal Democrat care services minister Paul Burstow of being in denial about cuts to social care.

She said: “It is simply not good enough for the minister to put his fingers in his ears and sing ‘la la la’. The truth is that cuts in social care are being made now.”

She said she had surveyed 61 directors of adult social services in England and found that 88 per cent were increasing charges and 16 per cent were tightening eligibility criteria.

Thornberry said Burstow’s failure to address funding shortages in social care was “reckless and wrong”, and she called on him to “give us an undertaking that he will no longer make false claims that there need be no cuts to front-line services”.

Burstow said there had been a “gradual tightening” of eligibility criteria over the last 13 years, while only 20p of every £1 being cut from social care budgets had come from cuts to services.

But he said the social care system needed “radical reconstruction surgery”.

He said the government would introduce a social care bill to reform both the law and funding of social care, based on “greater personalisation of social services, a more preventive focus on how those services are provided and a real attempt to deliver around outcomes”.

19 May 2011

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