Need for ‘fairness’

VULNERABLE people across West Sussex are suffering badly as a result of WSCC’s decision to slash social care budgets.

During the coming weeks, the council is reviewing its budget plans for next year and beyond. Last week you announced a £50m boost to improve the county’s infrastructure, with £1.5m earmarked for the development of Chichester Festival Theatre and £2.6m to improve broadband connections.

These are clearly important for the local economy, but not if they are paid for on the backs of those with life-long disabilities and the infirm nearing the end of their lives and in need of care.

There is a need for fairness.

Already, 480 vulnerable have lost all care support and 2,000 more have lost part of their care packages.

Those with learning and physical disabilities or suffering from mental illness who have been attending day care centres and receiving professional support for many years have suddenly lost their places and have been forced into debilitating social isolation at home.

Others have lost their mobility payments, making them more dependent than ever on their carers, who are often at breaking point themselves.

Even those with ‘substantial’ and ‘critical’ needs – the most vulnerable people you promised would not be affected – have seen their care budgets cut by between 9 – 20 per cent.

Pleas from both The Don’t Cut Us Out Campaign and opposition councillors for the council to use its fast growing reserves and contingency funds to minimise cuts to the vulnerable, were voted down by the ruling Conservative group.

But now, one year on, we learn that you are considering accepting a one-off £9million grant from central government to freeze Council Tax which will lead to a £9m budgetary ‘hole’ in council accounts in subsequent years.

How will this be paid for?

By using the very reserves you said were untouchable, or imposing further cuts on those least able to cope?

Other councils, including Brighton, have already voted to forgo this short term government grant and raise local taxes to improve essential services rather than cut them, and to spread overall reductions much more fairly – and not load 40 per cent of the cuts on the disabled and elderly, as West Sussex has done.

Taking away vital care from those deemed to have moderate needs is a false economy.

As the government’s own research shows, short-term savings in care support lead to greater costs later, with those unsupported quickly sliding down into substantial and critical categories of care and worsening health conditions.

The Don’t Cut Us Out Campaign asks you, when you set next years budget, to rethink the priorities for our community in these challenging times and to re-consider the increasing needs of disabled, elderly and vulnerable residents whose voices still struggle to be heard

Barry Pickthall

Spokesman – Don’t Cut Us Out Campaign. Speaking out for the vulnerable across West Sussex