A staggering report produced for Salford Council's Assistant Mayor for Adults and Older People's Services, and to be rubber stamped by City Mayor Ian Stewart and his Cabinet on 30th June, is breathtaking in its Tory double-speak.
The report, listing final proposals for almost £4.4million cuts to public services for vulnerable adults in the city, admits that the proposals "are likely to affect some of the most marginalised citizens in the city", before proposing almost Dickensian solutions.
For instance, the Council's `service offer' to vulnerable adults is to be `redesigned', and the report cites the Integrated Care Programme for Older People, which "will ensure that our way of working progresses from deficit and dependency to independence"… while the overall cuts offer "more opportunities for self reliance for its population" and "an improved experience for Salford's citizens".
The `improved experience' means a 30% reduction in funding, and "that the Council will have to cease providing some things, charge more for others and ask other partners or communities to provide alternatives instead. This will mean that some families and friends will need to increase some of the support they already provide for some individuals.
"Communities will need to shift their expectations of what the public sector can do and of the City Council's role" it adds "Some will need to lead or co-produce ways to solve their own community issues."
While correctly blaming the ConDem Government for the cuts in funding, the rhetoric and spin being used by the Labour Council might well have come straight from the Tory Party manifesto and David Cameron's `Big Society' con.
A huge consultation undertaken by the Council showed that neither the general public, nor the people who use the services agree with the cuts. But they are to be approved anyway - give or take a few tweaks. The overwhelming theme running through the report is that poverty produces the need for public services for vulnerable adults…and that all but the very worst cases will be left to their own devices…
Care On Call
This is an emergency 24 hour, seven day a week telephone and mobile response service to over 4,500 people in Salford, mostly over 65, responding to alarms when they have falls in their homes and other problems.
At the moment the service is 64% subsidised by the Council to keep it affordable – but the Council now intends to withdraw all its funding and charge vulnerable people the full amount: £4.82 per week for the standard service and up to £10 a week for enhanced visits.
The Community Impact Assessment "identified poverty as a key factor due to
the high number of people who are in receipt of qualifying benefit which entitles them to a subsidised service", and in the consultation the majority of people who responded didn't think it was fair to charge the full amount, with 123 people saying they couldn't afford it.
What happens now? Do those who can't afford to pay just lie on the floor for days hoping someone will come to their rescue while enjoying their "improved experience" and "independence"?
Passenger Transport Unit
209 people with learning disabilities, physical disabilities and mental health problems use the Council's transport to get to day care centres or Granville respite centre, which includes specialist drivers and escorts.
The Council intends to slash virtually the whole service, despite the vast majority of people using the service plus their carers and families stating that the cut wasn't fair, and raising "concerns about reliability/availability/costs and safety".
The Community Impact Assessment "highlighted that this proposal will disproportionately impact people with learning difficulties" but the Council is going ahead, scrapping twelve buses, two smaller vehicles and 24 staff - leaving those with learning disabilities, physical disabilities and mental health problems to get Ring and Ride, a taxi, ordinary public transport or to rely on lifts from friends and family…
…A totally "improved experience", no doubt…
(see Noreen's Story - below*)
Mental Health Support
154 people in the community with mental health problems currently get `floating' support from highly skilled workers who, for two or three hours a week, help them recover from their illness. The Council will now only help around forty people for two or three hours a week, for three to six months, with 16 jobs slashed in the process. And the rest? They can use the `Pathway To Independence Model' to fend for themselves.
The Community Impact Assessment "identified poverty as a key factor in poor mental health" and added that "There are a range of service and support networks in the communities that can help access the support available". These include things like voluntary social support groups or independent companies like Making Space which is currently putting leaflets in Salford community centres advertising floating support.
In the consultation, 91% of respondents who use the service disagreed with the proposals, as did 88% of carers and 86% of family and friends.
Housing Options and Supported Tenancy Service
Both these services deal with preventing homelessness or helping people to retain their home. They work with the poor and the vulnerable, including young people leaving care or at risk, people suffering domestic abuse, people with drug and alcohol related problems and those who just can't afford to pay their bills.
The Council originally wanted to axe the Supported Tenancy Service and slash Housing Options to a minimum. 86% of horrified organisations which deal with related issues disagreed with the Council's proposals, concerned that it "would increase homelessness" and leave people sleeping rough.
Faced with such a backlash, the Council is now `only' slashing the Supported Tenancy service by 50% and retaining a bit more of its Housing Options Service – but it's being paid for by shutting Petrie Court which provides supported accommodation for 16-24 single homeless people.
The Council's Salford Homelessness Strategy 2013-18 stated that "teenage parents, young people leaving care, and at risk have the highest rate of support need…With the introduction of the new government reforms, it is more likely that this group would need more support than any other at risk group".
Home Improvement Agency
This provides housing support to 75 elderly, vulnerable people who are poor or have no families to help out. It provides advice on tackling major or minor repairs to their homes or with moving to a more suitable home.
The Council intends to halve the current service, despite the Community Impact Assessment listing the fall out…including that "Vulnerable people will wait longer for properties to be repaired; Increased risk of hospital admission and delayed discharge; Detrimental impact on health and wellbeing; Increased poverty – the longer a person stays in a large property which is falling into disrepair, the more they spend, the less they can afford to maintain the property and the worse the repairs get, yet they cannot afford to move…".
…Which will give Salford's elderly and vulnerable even more time to wallow in their "improved experience" and "independence"…
Deafness Support Service
The original intention was to shut this lifeline for the deaf, until it was pointed out that it would cost the Council more in interpreters than it would save. So, instead, the Council is closing the Deaf Link drop-in service and keeping its Communicator Guide service, which only deals with those assessed as having substantial or critical needs.
The Council report states that everyone using the service have low incomes and the Community Impact Assessment adds that "People with sensory impairments in Salford will be unable to access the services provided by anyone other than public bodies unless they can afford to pay for an interpreter or they have substantial or critical social care needs".
During one of the consultation sessions, the Assistant Mayor heard how deaf people feel they are "an excluded group who have to fight against discrimination". The Assistant Mayor obviously didn't hear what they were saying…
Salford Offender Service
This service gives housing support and advice to offenders and those at risk of offending, with the aim of reducing homelessness and stopping them offending again, with obvious plusses for the community.
The Council intends to stop all funding, despite the Community Impact Assessment stating that the impact could be negative for the city including "Offenders being housed in inappropriate areas; increase in failed tenancies, eviction and homelessness, and an increase in re-offending".
As a result, the concept of `self help' and `independence' could be taken to Dickensian musical proportions… `You've got to pick a pocket or two…'
The overall report concludes with the understatement that the "reforms" are "likely to affect some of the most marginalised citizens in the city". Indeed this is proved by the Council's own breakdown of responses to its consultation which shows that respondees were heavily located in Salford's poorest areas – Langworthy, Irwell Riverside and Little Hulton.
These are the very people who rely on public services – those with the least wealth and support. Yet a Labour Council is supposed to look after these citizens, otherwise some people might ask `What is the point of a Labour Council?...Is it to build fountains, bridges, support rugby clubs, subsidise office blocks and posh apartments?'
The Council report tells the community "to shift expectations of the public sector and of the City Council's role" and "to lead and solve their own community issues"…
…It talks of "redefining the offer to vulnerable adults" and "new ways of doing business" and shifting "from provider to commissioning" (ie privatising) with "value for money"…
…It talks of "reforms" and "independence" and "an improved experience for Salford's citizens"…
The language could have come straight from some Tory Minister's mouth. Labour Mayor, Ian Stewart, is looking more and more like the man who swallowed David Cameron…
* See also previous Salford Star article - £4.4million Salford Council Cuts Horror, focussing on cuts to Welfare Rights and Debt Advice - click here
** See related Salford Star articles...
* Salford Council Total Privatisation of Adult Services - click here
* How Salford Council Treats Vulnerable People Fighting Cuts (Noreen's Story) - click here
* Salford Council Cuts Life and Death Services - click here
* Read the full cuts report - click here and then click on item 04