This week Salford City Mayor Ian Stewart launched a petition called `A Fair Deal For Salford' calling on Prime Minister David Cameron to meet a delegation of the city's politicians to discuss "how we can best protect the most vulnerable in our city".
The first comment by someone who signed the online petition kind of backfired in the Mayor's face… "The Council's decision to remove the funding of the adult and vulnerable client service is a disgrace" wrote Clare "Whoever made that decision should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves - what will all these people do now?
"Homeless people will remain homeless instead of being rehabilitated into supported housing" she added "Elderly and vulnerable clients will suffer and it's astonishing that the Council can approve the £150k assistant chief executive post at the cost of the people of Salford, absolutely disgusting."
The problem is that while the Mayor talks the talk of protecting vulnerable people in the city, the walk he, and fellow councillors, are walking is to slash services that protect those very people.
The hypocrisy has been pointed out by a Twitter feed called @AdviceINSalford which tweeted this week `If @MayorofSalford wants to do something about debt in Salford, why is he cutting advice services?'. Instead of answering such questions, the Mayor blocked @AdviceINSalford so no-one could read about the hypocrisy.
While Mayor Ian Stewart goes public with his concerns about Salford residents `at breaking point', those at the sharp end of his decisions, while acknowledging disgraceful Tory cuts, are actually turning the mirror towards the Mayor and Salford Council…
"If they're hiring someone on £150,000 a year while axing those lower down the chain who save people's lives, that is beyond disgusting, it's ignorant" says Tom "It's diabolical. I would love to sit to sit down with the person who made that decision and hear their justification…"
Tom, a former alcohol and drug addict; Tracy, a victim of domestic abuse, and John, who was living in the back of his car for six months, tell Salford Star how housing advice workers had saved their lives… "They stopped me from killing myself; they're needed" says Tracy.
Salford Council is proposing two sets of cuts to the city's advice services…
The first £350,000 cut, agreed last year, is to `integrate' its Welfare Rights and Debt Advice with Housing Advice and Support services, with the loss of ten jobs. If this cut goes ahead workers in the department have requested a ballot for industrial action.
The second £781,000 cut, which is a proposal for the 2014-15 budget, will mean the loss of 17 jobs in Supported Tenancies (first revealed in the Salford Star's `Mystic Mary' predictions on 1st January – see here) which, we understand, will almost wipe out all housing advice and support, except for a skeleton statutory homeless section which is required by law.
Salford Council, it seems, is proposing to `integrate' its Welfare Rights and Debt Advice service with a Housing Advice service that may no longer exist. However, beyond the financial figures, Monty Pythonesque `integrations' and the fight for jobs and services, are real life tragedies that have been avoided because of the work of these caring staff…
Tracy, a victim of domestic abuse and multiple other problems, fights back her tears as she tells us how her supported tenancy key workers rescued her…
"I was homeless five years ago, they got me a flat and have continued to help me" she says "They don't just get you a house and leave you alone, they make sure you don't get into debt and help with other housing problems. They get things done, they don't judge you and we need these people. If they go I don't know what I'll do. I think it's absolutely tragic.
"These people are so needed" she adds "They have helped so many people who are on the streets."
John was homeless and living in the back of a car for six months, with the stress giving him a double heart attack, before the supported tenancy workers stepped in and got him a flat last Christmas… "If it hadn't been for these people I would have been lost" he says.
Meanwhile, Tom is a recovering addict who suffered from alcohol and substance misuse, and credits the service with saving his life.
"For seven years I had no idea how to live my life, it was just a cloud of drink and drugs, but after six months I managed to get myself off the streets by accessing these services, went into treatment and then into a hostel" he recalls "When the moment came for me to find a place of my own I was taken on by supported tenancies who gave me a hand. The transition from where I was in the hostel into a flat did not go smoothly at all due to a massive mistake by Salix Homes.
"I had given up my place in temporary accommodation, and turned up the next morning to find that because of their mistake I couldn't move in" he explains "I was rendered homeless with nowhere to go and once again my supported tenancies key worker stepped in and I was put up in temporary housing until I was able to move into my flat. They've looked after me ever since.
"I needed that support to help show me how to pay bills, fill out forms, give me a bit of reassurance, because obviously things can go wrong in my situation" he adds "Where I have been able to do things for myself I have done, it's a case of learning. If it wasn't for this service, particularly in that moment when Salix messed up and left me homeless, I would have been left on the street
"The space of time between me picking up a bottle or substance and being in hospital or close to death is about ten days" he reveals "It's an awkward situation to be in, and that was my real worry at that moment in time but they continue to look after me and I can say with candid honesty to anyone that they saved my life."
Now Tom helps other people who are in a similar situation and fears for those who need the service if the Council's proposals go ahead…
"You will find people on the street with literally nowhere to turn and no-one to look after them" he explains "The end game for addicts on the streets is death. That's what happens. Eventually people die and it's not nice. People do relapse even with help, so for those on the street the likelihood of them surviving is very, very slim. It's tragic actually."
Salford Council's staff trade union, Salford City UNISON, has vowed to oppose both the cuts to Welfare Rights and Debt Advice and the Housing Advice Services, plus the proposals to axe Supported Tenancy workers…
"Our members recognise that these cuts are caused by a vicious Tory Government but we believe that the Council needs to prioritise services for the most vulnerable people" says UNISON's Ameen Hadi "If the Labour Council will not stand up for the most vulnerable in society it is our responsibility as a union to fight for services and for our members' jobs."
See also previous Salford Star article - Salford families lose thousands of pounds due to ConDem Government cuts - click here