Norfolk’s poorest disabled people ‘face massive fall in living standards’


The 90 000 poorest disabled people in Norfolk could see their standard of living plunge by more than a third due to government and council cuts and reforms, according to research for a disabled people’s organisation.

The research for Norfolk Coalition of Disabled People (NCODP) says the reduction will come through falls in both income and support services, and blames government cuts and tax and welfare reforms, and cuts to services planned by Norfolk County Council.

Mark Harrison, NCODP’s chief executive, described the cuts and reforms as “completely disproportionate and inevitably discriminatory” and said the report shows disabled people are being “scapegoated for a crisis which we had no part in creating”.

NCODP is now consulting a barrister about possibly seeking a judicial review of the council’s planned spending cuts.

Harrison warned that the cuts faced by disabled people in Norfolk were being mirrored across the country, although other councils had been less open and honest than Norfolk County Council about their plans.

He added: “It exposes the arrogance of the coalition government and our minister for disabled people who is claiming these savings can be achieved without affecting people’s lives, which is complete nonsense.”

The research, by economist Dr Chris Edwards, estimates that the 45,000 people in Norfolk on working age disability benefits will lose an average of £526 a year.

Of £136 million cuts in services planned by the county council over the next three years, about £45 million will “directly and exclusively” affect disabled people, leading to an average loss of £476 per year in services for 31,500 disabled people receiving adult social care services. They will also be affected by other council cuts.

The report also points to the increase in VAT from 17.5 per cent to 20 per cent, which it says will mean a loss of about two per cent of income for the poorest 50 per cent of disabled people.

Edwards says other research suggests that – adding in other cuts – the 90,000 poorest disabled people in Norfolk will lose about nine per cent of their standard of living a year for the next four years, or more than a third in total.

A Norfolk County Council spokeswoman said they did not agree with how their figures had been interpreted, and that the £45 million cuts would not all “translate into direct frontline service cuts or like-for-like costs that will be absorbed by the people who use our services”.

David Harwood, the cabinet member for adult and community services, said the council had “done our best to protect and maintain services for the most vulnerable people in Norfolk” and tried to limit the impact on “front line services” by “suggesting changes to the way we work and provide services, and by proposing efficiencies”.

He said no final spending decisions had yet been taken.

10 January 2011

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