Furore over cancellation of health scrutiny meeting

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WEST Sussex County Council has been criticised by the Don’t Cut Us Out Campaign for cancelling the Health & Adult Social Care Select Committee meeting this week (May 24) for ‘lack of anything important to discuss.’

Barry Pickthall, spokesman for the Campaign, which speaks out for the vulnerable across the county, who are facing £31 million in cuts to front-line services and care support, said: “This is just unbelievable. The most recent statistics show that 12 per cent of elderly, and 20 per cent of those people with learning disabilities have lost all their care support in the cuts, and more than 50 per cent have lost an average of between £37 and £47 per week in their support packages.

“These are people who are already living on subsistence levels. The very least this Select Committee should be asking is for facts and figures on how they are coping.”

In last week’s County Times a WSCC spokesperson confirmed the health meeting had been cancelled, saying ‘it was decided that the committee’s next meeting could be cancelled as there are no specific decisions or proposals that warranted the convening of the committee at this stage’.

The decision comes after the BBC ran a nationwide report on how cuts in care support within West Sussex are adversely affecting those with Downs Syndrome and other severe disabilities.

The case of Susie Rowbottom from Horsham, a 41 year old Downs Syndrome sufferer who lost her place at the Strawford Centre, Blatchford Road, Horsham, after attending for 20 years was highlighted and revealed in more detail by this paper.

Susie, who had her one-to-one care support cut from 12 hours to just 2, told the County Times she now only sees one or tow of her friends outisde Strawford. She said: “I miss them all.”

At the time her mother Kate Rowbottom added: “Susie should not be left at home with so little care.”

It was only last month that the Don’t Cut Us Out Campaign published its latest WSCC Dossier of Shame, exposing the fact that while cutting £31 million from their Adult Services budget, the council is salting away a staggering £38 million into reserves which now stand at a record £146 million.

“The elderly and disabled are the most vulnerable in society, and to cut their support, simply to build up reserves to record levels, is not only unfair, it is immoral,” said Barry Pickthall.

“At the very least, this new Health & Adult Social Care Select Committee, which is charged with scrutinising the effect Council policies have on the public, should be meeting to assess the latest information.

“Instead this group of councillors has bowed to pressure from council senior management who clearly don’t want recent revelations to be investigated.”

Dr James Walsh, The Lib Dem councillor who had been nominated to chair this committee, said: “If I had been elected as Chairman, I would not have cancelled this important meeting because these accumulating reports of increasing stress and anxiety among the young and old who have had their services cut, deserve an in-depth investigation by the Select Committee.”

Instead, the message Councillors on this Committee are sending out is simply: ‘We don’t care’ says the Don’t Cut Us Out Campaign.

A statement from the group listed the council members of the this week Health & Adult Social Care Select Committee: Councillors Mrs Whitehead (chairman), Mrs Knight, Mrs Mills, Mrs Richards, Dr Walsh, Mrs Bennett, Mr Blampied, Mr R Dunn, and Mrs Jupp.

Meanwhile, the county council has reiterated how the local authority has taken the decision not to respond to press statements made by the Don’t Cut Us Out campaign.

For details of the campaign’s so-called WSCC Dossier of Shame, visit: www.dontcutusout.org.uk