Friday 12 November 2010

Stealth Cuts – Other ways we are being hurt – Part 2

While massive spending cuts hit us all, my council – Waltham Forest - has taken the step of asking its residents where they should make savings. A friendly green website presented me with 8 different categories such as “children’s services” and “your streets” and invited me to make cuts of £55m. Suddenly I realised the mammoth scale of this undertaking – the way that no facilities or services can escape unscathed. However, I gave myself the challenge of maintaining adult social care at its current rate.

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t think adult social care is currently even adequate in my borough. I have been told that if someone can manage to give themself a flannel-bath, then they are not entitled to any kind of care. Of course this doesn’t take account of any inability to cook safely, nor to take out the rubbish or manage laundry! But simply trying to juggle cuts while keeping rates of social care at their current level made me aware of the huge task that councils are facing.

Each topic came with a slider – I simply had to pick categories and drag them to save money, and the website would let me know the impact of my actions. For example as I removed all funding from “Sport & Leisure” I was informed that the impact would be "reduced support to voluntary sector sports clubs, reduced sports activities in parks and estates and reduced sports activities and participation in competitions and events". While any cutback is a shame, I don’t feel guilty in removing sports activities when compared to helping disabled people to eat, be clean and maintain independence.

However, although there are eight categories and sliders to adjust, it is instantly clear that some categories will have little impact in making the £55m of required savings. After all, the total budget for Housing & Homelessness is just £4.85m. For Culture, Learning & Community Libraries the budget is £6.91m. In fact, if I set 6 of the 8 sliders to zero – removing all funding in those categories whatsoever – I still need to save another £28m. This money can only come from Children’s Services & Education, or the Adult Social Care that I am fighting to protect. In fact if I maintain adult care at its current level, the system shows me that I have no choice but to cut Children’s Services by more than 25%, removing several social workers and forcing large numbers of at-risk children to stay in their home rather than go into care – something which the real world would not tolerate. My changes would even impose the removal of care packages for disabled children; it seems that whichever way I go, with the huge quantity of cuts required, there will be a direct impact on disabled people one way or another.

Because adult social care comprises such a very large proportion of a council’s expenditure, it’s natural that many people will think that this is an obvious way to make savings. And although any such cutback is abhorrent to my mind, it may be essential in order for our councils to stay solvent. I am pleasantly surprised that although adult social care draws so much money, respondents to Waltham Forest’s website have only voted for a 7% reduction in our services. “Only” 7%. If the council implement cutbacks based on this consultation, they will “only” ...increase charges for their services (when many service users may be on benefits and unable to contribute financially for their care) ...reduce programmes to support vulnerable people and their carers ...and make staffing cuts so there will be even longer delays for assessments than there are at the moment.

Wow. Yet when I play with the figures myself, I can see that this may be a lucky escape - no matter how bad it seems, things can always be worse!

Unfortunately, in the three weeks that this website has been running, only 733 people have responded. That’s a quarter of 1% of everyone who lives in the area. How disappointing, that we are offered this opportunity to have our say and shape service provision for the future, and yet barely anyone bothers? It’s not for want of publicity, as a flyer went out with “Waltham Forest News”, a council newspaper delivered to every household in the borough.

I am utterly opposed to cuts of services and benefits which help disabled and older people to remain independent. I am increasingly concerned about these “stealth” cuts made by boroughs, where there is no right of appeal. But even I must admit that I can’t see what the solution is, other than to hope the economy recovers quickly, and that disabled people are the first to have their services reinstated when more funds are available.

In the meantime, I fear hearing about the human side of these cuts. I already see case studies in the local paper, I know people who are struggling, and situations where older or disabled neighbours have to provide food for one another. I know this is already happening on my own doorstep and I am dreading the situation getting worse. It seems the councils are between a rock and a hard place. All we can do is tell them to cut anything, everything, but adult social care.


  1. The answer is to protest about ALL the cuts to council budgets, not to fight one corner against another. The cuts aren't needed. Sort out the tax dodgers and we don't have to lose services.

    I, for one, will not play that game, and will try to maintain solidarity with ALL affected people

  2. I agree with shooz — that website "game" is the classic divide-and-conquer strategy for setting disadvantaged groups against one another in order to reduce our effectiveness.

  3. Let's face it - This Govt are NOT thinking or caring about anyone at all. Yes the country needs to save some money - But they are looking at all the wrong places.

    No1 - The whole MP/Parliament thing is a huge waste of money - These men sit around boo'ing and jeering in a very large expensive place - Having their other home paid for and their office with 1000 quid a roll wallpaper on the walls. No1 - I would give them a block of old council flats and a pot of paint and tell them - THIS IS YOUR NEW ACCOMODATION WHILST IN LONDON - Then - I would tell them that the way you use your services is rubbish. You all use different phone lines and services for yourself when you have the POWER between you all to demand cheaper services or threaten to move to another firm to provide you with it. STOP wasting money on the most expensive of everything - Turn ON your collective brains and use the power of the many that you hold.

    I would immediately get the Tax Man to demand payment from all tax evaders (starting with the 6bn owed by Vodaphone)

    The NHS has buying powerit does not use - You buy one Titanium screw for fixing bones and a screw would cost you maybe £1 outside the NHS suddenly whn the NHS is mentioned it rises tenfold - Use the power you have and demand that the NHS stop being ripped off just because the people providing the items think the NHS is an easy target - You all have buyer power! If - You choose to use your brain, that is.

    This Govt said they would be open and honest - transparent - This Govt lied and now they are in they are just wrecking the entire country with their stupid ideas and uncaring ways - Disabled people NEED care - This ridiculous - dont take a job and get no benefit for 3yrs' thing - It cannot work - Unles they expect all these people who are suddenly thrown off benefits to live in a cardboard box until they just happen to die. I guess that means the road cleaners bill will rise from removing all the unsightly dead bodies of the selfish dead people!

    The word CARE is not in this Govts book, they will trash this country, with all their non workable ideas. I would love to know WHERE they plan to find all these jobs for the 500k of people they newly made unemployed whn there wasnt jobs there for the people who are already unemployed, then the disabed people they decided are fine to work cos ATOS medicals are flawed. so that a hell-loaf of newly unemployed people who will all be sent out to do made-up jobs that dont exist - Never mind that you will no doubt reduce benefits making people unable to afford the bus fare to get to the place int he first place.

    Its the wastage the Govt want to focus on, not the disabled - WE DID NOT CHOOSE TO BE DISABLED.

    To be honest, all I see in my future is a bigger struggle than the one I already face now. They cannot SEE fatigue, they cannot SEE inside my head. Therefore I should probably be perfectly fine to run the marathon???????? NOT!

    Cameron and Clegg need to wake up and stop playing silly games with the lives of the people - Until they actually understand that their silly plans wont work and they are just wastin money trying to impliment to unworkable.

  4. I would be harmed by my local council cutting back sports funding. I can't afford to go to a private gym so I go to my local authority gym. The swimming team I train with uses a pool operated by my local authority too. I can't jog or many other "free" forms of exercise. I need to gym/swim. Especially in this weather when a brisk push in my wheelchair is out of the question.

    Exercise is important for me because strong muscles can better compensate for hypermobile joints. So if my local authority were to cut sports funding the direct impact on me would be that it would make my mobility impairment more painful.

    In my experience councils could make savings from adult social care budgets by spending more sensibly. I'll use my father as an example:

    My dad is 76 and has had cerebral palsy all his life. During those 76 years he's worked out ways he can do things like transferring from wheelchair to toilet.

    In Aug 2009 he broke his femur and was told he wasn't allowed to weight bear for 3 months which threw his usual transferring technique out the window. The NHS said they had no beds to offer him rehab to learn new methods of transferring so sent him home with a hoist and instructions that it had to be operated by 2 people.

    With dad's usual care package he only had one person in at a time so for 6 months (the 3 he wasn't allowed to weight bear and 3 more while he got back some muscle strength after not using his legs for 3 months) social services were paying for him to have 2 people in at a time.

    While the NHS said they had no access to rehab beds, social services did have the option of sending him to a private rehab facility for a couple of weeks so he could learn to transfer himself. While in the short term it would've come with a big bill, in the long term it would've been cheaper than paying for my dad to have 2 assistants at a time for 6 months.

    There. I just found a saving Essex County Council could've made if they were smarter about their spending. That saving could've given someone currently refused assistance hours a PA for a couple of hours a week.

    To get my new kitchen earlier this year my argument was "if you don't make my kitchen more accessible I'm going to need care hours because I've always struggled and my recent injury has now made using this impossible. Giving me a new kitchen will work out cheaper for you in the long run." So they acquiesced. But had I not pointed out what would be cheaper for them in the long run, they'd have taken the pricier route.