Families suffer as care allowance cuts bite

Peter Allen, of Waterlooville, is concerned about cuts to social care        Picture: Chris Moorhouse
Peter Allen, of Waterlooville, is concerned about cuts to social care Picture: Chris Moorhouse
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Peter Allen explains why cutbacks to care allowances are now hurting the disabled and those in need.

Government cutbacks to care allowances are putting mentally and physically disabled people in danger and are causing individuals and their families great distress.

I know this from personal experience because my brother-in law Philip, who is 65 and lives with us, was told by Hampshire County Council his care allowance would be reduced following an assessment.

He attends Blendworth Centre — a place that offers support for those with learning difficulties — five days a week and absolutely loves it.

But following an annual assessment he was told this would be cut back to three days a week. Philip didn’t understand why. He hates change. It makes him extremely confused and depressed. Many others are the same. They do not understand why their sheltered accommodation is being closed or why they can’t spend as much time there any more.

Fortunately we were able to get his five days reinstated — but only after we had fought the county council tooth and nail. Others, however, have not been so lucky.

We know of people who now are just walking the street as they have no care after an assessment reduced what they were entitled to. The policy today seems to be ‘cutting, not caring’.

For many of the centres it is becoming more and more difficult to remain active. They hate not being able to give the care they have always given simply because the support finance criteria is changed and restricted.

The emphasis today is on ‘getting these people into work’. But the reality is that they are not capable of working like most others. They struggle to operate in such environments and only interact within a caring community where they are taught skills over a long period with their peers and people who have the time to support and understand them.

One scheme Philip was told to attend — called Launchpad — encourages groups of people with learning difficulties meet up and do different activities. But Philip’s experience of this was bad.

He had to walk from our house in Waterlooville in all different types of weather and catch a bus on his own to meet the others. They would often just end up walking around aimlessly and Philip would hate the activities they would do — like cooking, reading and writing or going to the gym. After all, Philip does have the mental age of a six-year-old. Most of them cannot do these tasks and feel the same way.

I went to the meeting point on several occasions myself to check things out and there wasn’t a carer to be seen anywhere. How is this benefiting them? It caused Philip a great deal of upset.

Their condition means they are never going to get better so they should receive treatment that is relevant for them.

My daughter Lucy — who is just 33 years old and is in a wheelchair after a car accident — has also suffered at the hands of these assessments after they decided to withdraw 11 hours a week of her care allowance for no apparent reason. This made her incredibly upset. Again we fought hard and managed to get most of it reinstated, but there is an obsession with cutting care for those who really need it.

Britain is signed up to the UN charter on human rights for the disabled, not just the European Bill of Rights. So why is the budget so readily cut for the most vulnerable people in our society?

Annual assessments for the disabled in this country costs millions of pounds in themselves. If you want to save some of that, change the approach.

Assessments should consider three things. Firstly, if a person is established as being permanently disabled then leave them alone. They do not need constant fear of losing their support.

Secondly, if a person is established as permanent and worsening disabled, any future assessments should be medically supervised and improved as needed. Again, without the constant fear of losing valuable support.

Thirdly, if a person is established as only needing temporary support, then by all means proceed with assessments under medical supervision to maintain support until no longer needed.

Once a care package is reduced or cut, the families and or carers are the ones who have to pick up the pieces and try to get back the disabled person’s belief in themself. They feel worthless and not wanted and worst of all, they feel they are burden.

STARK WARNINGS

The Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC) – a national coalition of over 80 different charities and organisations committed to working towards a fair benefits system – has issued stark warnings over the cutbacks.

The consortium says they have worsened the health of disabled people while leaving them more isolated when seeking to claim money through the assessment, known as Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

The PIP is extra money to help people with long-term illnesses or disability which has replaced the Disability Living Allowance (DLA).

Following a DBC survey of over 1,700 people with long-term conditions including Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and mental health problems, more than three-quarters (79 per cent) of respondents said their assessment had exacerbated their health with them subsequently suffering stress and anxiety.

Phil Reynolds, co-chair of the DBC and senior policy adviser at Parkinson’s UK, said: ‘For the first time, these findings paint the true picture of what it is like to go through the complex assessment process for PIP.

‘Shockingly, a small number of people told us the experience of claiming PIP was so distressing that it has caused new conditions to emerge or even caused suicidal thoughts.

‘It is clear that PIP is failing many people from start to finish, so it is vital the government works with us to get a grip on PIP and to support everyone who needs it.’

THE COUNTY COUNCIL’S VIEW

Councillor Liz Fairhurst, executive member for adult social care and health, said: ‘People receiving adult social care support have always been regularly re-assessed to ensure the support provided is continuing to meet their needs.

‘Demand for care is growing but the amount of money we have available to spend is reducing, so we need to look carefully at how we provide care, to ensure the most vulnerable continue to receive the support they need. This means exploring a variety of options which also help to maximise people’s independence.

‘This might include working with family, friends and the community to help people find support in their local area, some of which will be County Council funded services. We would also look at how new care technology could benefit people, as well as whether more traditional forms of social care support may be appropriate

‘We are working hard to provide the care and support people want, and will continue to ensure those eligible for support receive it. However, the range of support available may be different in future.’