Adur, West & East Worthing Party including East Arun

West Sussex Liberal Democrats highlights impact of Tory Cuts on Disabled People in the County

West Sussex Lib Dem Spokesman for Adult Services, Councillor Bob Smytherman has highlighted the impact of Tory cuts to disabled people’s services at West Sussex County Council

(image shows Dr James Walsh with Don’t Cut Us Out campaigners and Tory Cabinet Member)

The comments come on the back of an in-depth report carried out by the disability charity Scope in conjunction with the Demos think tank, which has looked at the impact that cuts are having on a council-by-council basis across England and Wales.

Welcoming the report, Councillor Bob Smytherman said;

I know that difficult decisions have to be made by local authorities across the country when it comes to setting budgets. However, there are some remarkable cases where creative solutions have meant that the impact on disabled people has been mitigated.

I will continue to work with colleagues to ensure that our services for disabled people are protected as far as possible.

The findings of Coping with the cuts – Can local authorities protect disabled people’s services? Can be viewed online via an interactive map, which gives details about how disability services have been protected in every local authority in England and Wales.

The map can be found at www.demos.co.uk/disability-cuts-map.

Scope’s Chief Executive, Richard Hawkes said;

For months now disabled people have felt that they are being disproportionately affected by budget cuts and this research reveals the true reality of the lives of thousands of disabled families across the country as they begin to feel the effect of local budget cuts.

We are calling on councils to put disabled people and their families at the centre of decisions that affect their lives.

We know that every council has to make cuts and there is no simple way to protect front-line services. However it’s clear that some councils are taking creative steps to attempt to reduce the negative impact of budget cuts on disabled constituents and its right to commend those councils for taking the initiative to do so.

This research also exposes a potential risk in the government’s localism agenda. Whilst some councils will always seek to innovate and protect the interests of their constituents, others will choose the easier option. The government must make sure that disabled people are protected through its localism agenda otherwise it can no longer claim that those with the broadest shoulders are carrying the greatest burden.

West Sussex Lib Dem Deputy Group leader Dr James Walsh added,

Earlier this year Liberal Democrats proposed an amendment to the current budget which would have delayed the implementation of some of the cuts, which, we believe, would have given more time to find better ways of delivering services. We were extremely concerned that the loss of some services were not properly understood and our fear that very vulnerable people would be left without reasonable support has be bourne out in Scopes findings.

We are very disappointed that every single Conservative councillor voted the budget cuts through which has resulted in deep cuts in care for older people and people with learning difficulties.

Since 2000, West Sussex Conservatives have presided over a borrowing binge’, racking up a massive £430 million of debt (including £58 million related to Public Finance Initiatives) in just 11 years. Yet they queued up to lecture the Liberal Democrats on profligacy, saying that the Council had to learn to live within its means.

Despite the widely publicised condemnation of the levels of council reserves by the Secretary of State responsible for local government, West Sussex Conservatives also chose to add to their already substantial reserves. These stood at a very prudent £26m on 31st March 2010, but rather than using some of the money, as expected by Eric Pickles, they doubled them to some £50m by 2011/12, vastly increasing our debt for the future and pouring money into reserves seems more important to the Tories than maintaining front line services to the most vulnerable in the County.

The impact of changes to adult social care will be assessed by the Adults’ Services Select Committee this month on Thursday September 22, at 10.30am, at County Hall, Chichester. Earlier this year the Tories decided to no longer provide for moderate level adult social care needs, but for substantial and critical levels only.

The Committee will be discussing the impact of the changes, and will also receive a report on the prevention and well-being implementation programme.

Notes to Editors:

  1. Half of the social care authorities that received an FOI request were unable to provide information of the number of disabled people in their area.
  1. Such as very high budget cuts or increases in budget.

The following table maps level of cuts against how well councils are coping in England – which again demonstrates the variations in approach.

Very Good Good Well Ok Poor Bad Very Bad Total
No of councils in cut group Very High 0 0 3 6 6 9 5 29
High 0 4 7 6 6 6 1 30
Medium 1 2 5 5 10 7 0 30
Low 0 10 7 6 6 1 0 30
Increase 5 9 8 7 2 2 0 33
Total 6 25 30 30 30 25 6 152

About Coping with the cuts

The total coping score is made up of 6 elements in England and 4 in Wales.

In England, each local authority was assigned a score based on:

  1. Changes to social care budgets for children, adults and older people between 2010/11 and 2011/12
  2. Average changes in user charges for a range of disability services including transport, community meals, respite etc. between 2010/11 and 2011/12
  3. The care contribution policy put in place – how the local authority takes disability related benefits into account when calculating the amount people have to contribute to their social care funding
  4. The level of efficiency reduction placed on personal budgets (which can make personal budgets lower than the cash equivalent of the care people would receive directly from their council)
  5. The current eligibility criteria for state funded social care in the local authority (low, moderate, substantial or critical needs)
  6. Any changes in eligibility criteria between 2010/11 and 2011/12

Welsh local authorities were measured according to the above, excluded 4 (due to a different personal budget system) and 6 (as no Welsh local authorities had changed their eligibility criteria this year).

The point scores from each of these areas were combined to give an overall score out of 100, and local authorities were ranked accordingly.

About Demos

Demos is a think-tank focused on power and politics. Our unique approach challenges the traditional, ‘ivory tower’ model of policy making by giving a voice to people and communities. We work together with the groups and individuals who are the focus of our research, including them in citizens’ juries, deliberative workshops, focus groups and ethnographic research. Through our high quality and socially responsible research, Demos has established itself as the leading independent think tank in British politics. Our work is driven by the goal of a society populated by free, capable, secure and powerful citizens.

About Scope

West Sussex Liberal Democrats

Scope believes disabled people should have the same opportunities as everyone else. We run services and campaigns with disabled people to make this happen. As a charity with expertise in complex support needs and cerebral palsy we never set limits on potential. For more information please visit www.scope.org.uk www.facebook.com/scope www.twitter.com/scope