Westminster slammed for disability cuts

New report says council is third worst local authority in the country with “very bad” coping level

Westminster Council has reacted angrily after it was rated the third worst local authority in the country for cuts to disability services in a new independent report.

The ‘Coping With The Cuts’ report, written by Demos and funded by disability charity Scope, places Westminster 150th of 152 local authorities in England.

The report describes the borough’s cuts to disability services as “high” while it’s coping level is “very bad”.

However, Westminster health boss Cllr Daniel Astaire has hit out at the report’s “fatally flawed” analysis, arguing the council will spend �130million on social services this year.

“This is a cheap attempt to gain publicity using fiddled figures to frighten our residents,” he said.

“This analysis is fatally flawed in arguing that cash sums are the primary measure of the success of social services. They are not.

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“What you need is money, dedicated staff and services that prolong and enrich lives. That’s what we do in Westminster every day.”

The report found a number of budget cuts have been made in Westminster over the past year including an 8.9 per cent reduction in adult care and support and a 15.98 per cent drop in older people’s budget.

It also found the cost of respite services has increased by 500 per cent, while it noted the council recently raised the eligibility care criteria from those with moderate needs to those with substantial or critical.

Scope chief executive Richard Hawkes describes the report as a “groundbreaking study” that “reveals the reality facing many disabled families”.

He said: “It is possible to assess accurately the impact cuts have on disabled people and in doing so it shows that disabled people are being badly affected.

“Coping With The Cuts is not about attacking local authorities and forcing them into action.

“It should arm disabled people and their families with the tools to hold their local authority to account over budget decisions.”

Peter Hay, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, has also criticised the report’s “spurious methods”.

He said: “Rather than helping directors work their way through making imaginative responses to the reduction of public spending, the whole report is ruined by a relentless focus on sensationalism.

“They have ranked councils using criteria that are discredited.

“This distracts from a report which could have been used to work with people with disability, and assessing progress made with the emerging features of good services.”