Westminster plans to cut disability support are ‘lunacy’ say carers

Council is proposing to decrease social care for people with ‘moderate’ needs

THE lives of almost 150 people with learning disabilities are at risk if Westminster Council goes ahead with proposals to downgrade their care support, campaigners are warning.

The council is proposing to decrease the level at which people receive social care from ‘moderate’ to ‘substantial’ in order to save money.

But a group of campaigners from the Westminster Society for people with learning disabilities, including social care service users, family members, carers, and support workers, yesterday delivered a 1,000-name petition against the plans to City Hall.

The society’s director of services for adults, Mandy Crowford, says the withdrawal of support from those with ‘moderate’ disabilities would create a risk of homelessness, the loss of vital skills, and a deterioration of physical and mental health.

“People with learning disabilities will not get better – it’s a life long condition,” she said. “Our users have access to trained staff who help them with things like paying bills, cooking, cleaning and personal care.

“The staff can monitor changes in their behaviour that might suggest if there is something wrong.

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“By making the cuts there are short term savings to be made but in the long term they are likely to end up in crisis.”

The delivery of the society’s petition, titled Cuts Hurt, Don’t Leave Me Stranded, coincided with the end of the council’s 12-week public consultation on the proposals yesterday.

Westminster will now review all feedback before deciding whether to enforce the plans.

One woman who would be forced to leave her supported living centre run by the society if the changes take place, said: “If I didn’t have the society I wouldn’t have the support that I have now. If the cuts come into effect, I would have to move back in with my mum and lose my independence. I would be at a much greater risk and could be taken advantage of. I would go back into my shell and not develop. I need their support.”

The society says removing support for those who fall into the ‘moderate’ category, including people with autism, Asperger’s, and Down’s syndrome, would put added pressure on their family members who would be forced to care for them.

Richard Renkawicz is a secondary carer for his sister Ewa who has used the society’s service for almost 20 years. He said: “The problem is it is a fact that these people are not going to get better. To suddenly change their support network is just lunacy.

“How on earth do they think these people are going to cope? I’m just outraged by this. The work of the Westminster Society is second to none and to cut the ground from under them will not just reduce the quality of life for these people, it will diminish every aspect of it.”

Adult services boss Cllr Daniel Astaire said: Given the current economic climate and the significant actual and projected increased demand for adult social care services our current levels of spending are simply not sustainable.”

“We are going to have to make some tough decisions about how we are providing services in order to deliver first class services.”