Westminster elderly and disabled suffer as social care is slashed

Council raises social care eligibility level to leave more than 3,000 vulnerable people at risk

More than 3,000 elderly and disabled Westminster residents could lose their social care after the council’s cabinet confirmed it will withdraw funding for people with ‘moderate’ needs.

The cabinet approved officers’ recommendations to increase the social care eligibility level from ‘moderate’ to ‘substantial’ on Monday night in order to save �2.75million.

Social care groups have criticised the decision, which they say will put the 3,028 people in the ‘moderate’ category in Westminster at risk and fail to save any money in the long-term.

Gabby Machell, chief executive of the Westminster Society For People With Learning Disabilities, said: “We remain steadfast in our view that this move will increase vulnerability and will not be cost-effective, as people will soon fall into crisis and require expensive support packages to enable them to regain some quality of life.

“People’s needs will not disappear because they are no longer eligible for support. We have all become used to phrases like ‘we are all in this together’ and ‘we all have to take a hit’ but do we have to ask some of the most vulnerable people to suffer most for problems that they are least responsible for? Isn’t our duty to care more for people in difficult times, not less?”

Westminster Action Network on Disability chairman, Ash Naghouni, said: “All the work the council has done in the past 15 years to include disabled people in society and be part of the mainstream has been undone.

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“These people will lose their independence, dignity and any chance of a normal life.

“They are going to get worse and eventually they are going to be put in an institution or move up to ‘substantial’ level of need, which is going to cost the council more than when they were in the ‘moderate’ band.”

Speaking at the meeting Cllr Daniel Astaire, cabinet member for society, families and adult services, said: “We recognise that whatever steps we take will affect vulnerable people but we are not alone in what we are doing. The vast majority of London councils have taken these steps.

“Adult services have gone over budget this year and we are likely to go over budget far more in coming years so we need to do something about it.”

Last week saw the council’s consultation on the care changes criticised for being difficult to understand and poorly distributed. Respondents raised fears of being unable to cope, becoming burdens for their families and increasing their vulnerability.

However, there was good news for some at Monday’s meeting when a disability centre scheduled for closure in February was given a reprieve.

The council had been proposing to decide the future of the Westminster Centre for Independent Living, on Westbourne Park Road, by the end of February, but cabinet members changed their decision after Cllr Astaire suggested that “officers will work with service groups and users for a reasonable time to allow their own proposals to be put forward”.

Community organisation alliance London Citizens has been working with campaign group SOS Westminster to form an alternative user-driven plan for the centre.

SOS Westminster member Russell Gwebu said: “We are working tirelessly to come up with a plan that will help both the users and the community.”