In June this year, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) published a report reviewing the austerity measures currently being imposed across the UK by the current government.
The Committee was “seriously concerned about the disproportionate adverse impact that austerity measures, introduced since 2010, are having on the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights by disadvantaged and marginalized individuals and groups.”
These same disadvantaged and marginalized individuals and groups’ seem certain to be further adversely affected by local proposals to cut already decimated budgets back by a further £39 million over the next two years , ‘Proposals for cuts to council services‘, (Rochdale Online , 13 September 2016).
It was reported still further in Community Care that ‘Learning disability cost savings plan sparks ‘institutionalisation’ fears‘, ( 30th September 2016 ), where it was pointed out that:
‘A council (Rochdale) has defended a set of controversial cost saving plans for learning disability services after campaigners claimed the measures promoted a “shocking” return to institutionalised care. Rochdale council has tabled proposals to save £1.4m by ‘remodeling’ its supported living offer and moving some people who currently have their own tenancies into alternative settings, including residential care unit’.
Learning Disability England, a membership organisation for people with learning disabilities, described the plans as “shocking” and “a proposal to return to institutionalised services”, adding ‘we should never return to warehousing people with learning disabilities’. Local people affected can of course submit their comments to Rochdale Council during the consultation period.
It really does not take a ‘brain surgeon’ to realise these proposals are an act on gross irresponsibility on behalf of our decision makers.
To cut back on vital front line services at a time of spirally stress, anxiety, mental health issues is as much an act of community vandalism as is anti-social behaviour ,breaking a shop window, spraying graffiti or joy riding at the expense of community harmony.
In fact in the long run it is far worse. For it is a shocking abdication of the duty of care & responsibility to care for & protect the most vulnerable in our communities when so many local people struggle to maintain their sanity of themselves or of their loved ones
The full gravity of these proposals is not lost for one second on local campaigners or Rob Greig, chief executive of the National Development Team for Inclusion and a former national director for learning disabilities, who told Community Care the proposals by Rochdale Council should be scrapped.
“This epitomises everything that’s gone wrong with adult social care commissioning. The council is claiming residential care can offer better value for money. What they actually mean is, this is cheaper. It’s not value for money because value for money is about the outcomes you get for what you spend,we know that poorer staff support ratios in large group settings means people have lower quality of lives and they will thus end up being more dependent upon services in the future.
“The other big problem with this proposal is the rights agenda. They are proposing changes that could see people have to move from a situation where they have housing rights which give them the ability to determine where they live, who supports them, who comes in and out of the house and, crucially, allows them go out to paid work. Instead they’ll move to a residential unit. In my view it is legally questionable.”
A spokesperson for Rochdale Council has reassuringly stated on record that: “Any suggestion that this is ‘reinstitutionalisation’ or ‘warehousing’ people against their wishes to save money is irresponsible and wrong.
“We are trying to improve the service we offer to users and their families because we are over-reliant on one service model, the group home model which doesn’t meet everyone’s needs, particularly in old age.
“Our proposals will improve, enhance and extend the supported living options we offer and we are consulting widely with service users, providers, carers and families on the new models of care”.
That being the case I would like to ask if rumors that a unit is in the process of being set up on Whitworth Road for such ‘warehousing’ to take place locally? In the UK there are already existing such units some housing 40-60 people.
Local campaigners will be watching developments closely and share Learning Disabilities UK concerns that such proposals appear to indicate: “That Rochdale Council has a flawed understanding of supported living. We should never return to warehousing people with learning disabilities”.
The experience of other councils under pressure to magic still further cuts out of ever decreasing budgets is an extremely worrying one. The example of Southampton City Council (SCC) should act as a wake up call for anyone in Rochdale Council minded to adopt such market driven thinking here in Rochdale:
A local authority has employed the outsourcing giant Capita to clear a backlog of annual reviews of its service-users’ care packages, in an apparent attempt to cut costs and help fill a hole in its budget.
The ‘pilot project’ has so far resulted in an average cut of seven per cent in disabled people’s support packages.
One service-user said that Capita was “blitzing” all of the disabled people receiving support through direct payments, on behalf of Southampton City Council (SCC).
The Capita employee who carried out the assessment admitted cutting the direct payments packages of more than half of the disabled people they had assessed so far, and said that the aim of the exercise was to cut costs.
The service-user said they were particularly concerned that the review was being carried out by a company with an appalling record of assessing disabled people for their eligibility for the disability benefit personal independence payment, on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions.’
‘Council ‘pays Capita to cut care packages’, published by Disability News Service, (22nd September 2016):
Ian Loynes , the chief executive of Spectrum, has said that he: “believed that ‘virtually all’ local authorities were now carrying out similar cost-cutting programmes, because of reduced funding from central government”.
Adding: “We do have intermittent reports both in Hampshire and Southampton that [council]care managers are starting a review meeting with the user with a ‘we have to save money’ message, which is completely unacceptable, and when we have challenged this with direct evidence, the senior managers claim it was just an isolated incident and should not be happening”.
Sue Bott, deputy chief executive of Disability Rights UK, has said of the difficulties Councils across the UK now face in balancing the books of social care budgets that :
“If their sole intention is to cut the cost of care packages then, once again, they are skating on thin legal ice.
“Starting a review with the words ‘we have to save money’ is unhelpful and contrary to statutory guidance.
“Rather there should be a genuine conversation about what is needed to live a good life and whether the current package achieves that.”
Many campaigners are now of the opinion that such controversial proposals amount to nothing less than a breach of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Think again RMBC. If you do not , take notice , campaigners will be taking our concerns onto the streets.
In the meantime I would also urge concerned local people to also share their objections to these cut backs to services with the Special United Nations Rapporteur, Ms. Catalina Devandas-Aguilar, who is currently preparing a study, to be presented at the 34th session of the UN Human Rights Council in March 2017, on the provision of support to persons with disabilities.
Submissions can be made by anyone concerned to firstname.lastname@example.org by 21st October2016.
A copy of RMBC’s proposals already been submitted by local mental health campaigners for their feedback in due course. Local campaigners all hope sanity & rational thinking on these proposals can be restored immediately.
ANDREW WASTLING – Mental Health Campaigner