Controversial cuts to social care approved - but could be overturned (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)
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Council's Executive votes to raise level of need at which care is available to elderly and disabled
Two political parties are attempting to force Bradford Council to re-think a controversial cut to social care for the elderly and disabled.
Yesterday, Bradford Council’s Executive approved a cost-cutting plan to raise the threshold for when vulnerable people are entitled to care.
From now on, only people whose needs are classed as substantial or critical will be eligible for help with tasks such as washing, eating and dressing in their own homes. Previously, those with moderate needs or above were entitled to help.
The changes, which will be phased in over a year starting next April, are expected to affect around 2,000 people and will save around £1.57 million a year.
But in a rare move, both the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives have now demanded the decision be “called in” to be examined by a scrutiny committee. The committee could refer the decision to the full Council, where it could be overturned.
At the Executive meeting yesterday, Councillor Amir Hussain (Lab, Toller), executive member for adult services, said 83 per cent of local authorities had already raised their thresholds.
He said with shrinking budgets and a rising population, Bradford’s current service was “not sustainable”.
Liberal Democrat leader Councillor Jeanette Sunderland (Idle and Thackley) spoke at the meeting on behalf of the campaign group Bradford Cares, which recently took a delegation to 10 Downing Street to hand over a petition objecting to the change.
She said the cut could prove to be a false economy as without proper care people’s conditions could worsen and they could need more intensive help.
And Emmerson Walgrove, deputy chairman of the Bradford Disabled People’s Forum, urged the committee not to raise the threshold, saying they would be “cutting services to vulnerable people”.
Mr Walgrove said in a public consultation, 81.7 per cent of people had opposed the change.
He said: “The question has to be what was the point of the consultation?”
But Councillor David Green, leader of the Council, said it had not been a referendum, and that the Council was trying to address their concerns in other ways. He added: “Nobody in this room will be happy with whatever decision we make.”
The changes were approved, with both Councillor Val Slater (Lab, Royds) and Coun Hussain saying it had been the hardest decision of their political careers.
After the meeting, Coun Sunderland said: “It’s a sad day for Bradford.”
She said she had spoken to Councillor Mike Gibbons (Con), the chairman of the Health and Social Care Overview and Scrutiny Committee, about calling in the decision, and expected there to be a day-long public hearing into the matter.
Coun Gibbons said it was important the matter was discussed as widely as possible. He said: “It is hard to overstate the importance of any change in the criteria that decides the access or otherwise to care services by vulnerable service-users and ultimately results in some people no longer being eligible to receive such services.”
Mr Walgrove said the forum was “disappointed and disgusted” by the Executive’s decision.
He said: “People’s needs are still the same. It was previously considered appropriate and necessary to support people with moderate needs. The forum believes it must still be necessary.”
He said the forum would participate fully in the scrutiny process, and urged anyone with concerns over the care changes to e-mail them at info@ disabledpf.org.uk.
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