A HEALTH watchdog leader has hit out at future funding cuts for the vulnerable which are expected to be announced next month.
No decisions have yet been taken on "Future Lives" but the proposal is to cut the supporting people budget from £15 million a year to £6.5 million as part of a drive by Worcestershire County Council to claw back £98 million by 2017. Many objections have hinged on the potential loss of a £630,000 grant to Worcester Community Housing from council which could lead to the loss of wardens in sheltered accommodation. However, the cuts would not only affect older people but also services linked to mental health problems, domestic abuse, offenders, learning disabilities and homelessness.
Peter Pinfield, chairman of Healthwatch Worcestershire, has written to Dr Richard Harling, director of adult services and health, listing public concerns about Future Lives.
In the letter he said: “Consumers are concerned that the focus of the Future Lives programme on reducing investment in preventative service areas appears to fly in the face of current thinking on tackling health and well-being.”
He also said the consultation had been hampered by it taking place over Christmas and New Year. He added: “In particular the delay in making available the accessible version of the consultation document is considered to have disadvantaged consumers with learning disabilities.” He also said multiple choice data lacked data for people to make an informed choice and that the shift to accessing services over the internet risked ‘digital discrimination’ against older and more vulnerable people.
In the letter, sent on January 27, he also raised concerns about the use of volunteers to provide services now run by the council and about people’s need becoming critical or substantial once the supporting people budget is withdrawn.
Philip Talbot, chief executive of Age UK in Herefordshire and Worcestershire said the main issue was to see whether Worcestershire County Council had taken notice of the comments made in the consultation. He said: “We shall be monitoring the situation closely, monitoring the final proposal and considering the impact. We hope the cabinet will listen to the views expressed in the consultation responses.”
The three cabinet members will be meeting to discuss the report at a closed meeting, which will be held on the February 12. This report will be made public five working days prior to the meeting on February 4. Members of the public can view this report by visiting worcestershire.gov.uk/cms/democratic-services and are able to make written representations to the council before the decision is made to enable the cabinet member to take them into account. Councillor Sheila Blagg will make the final decision, which will be published on council's website within three working days of the final decision. Cllr Blagg, cabinet member for adult social care, said: "We need to ensure Worcestershire County Council is able to deliver the best service within the best possible time frame and reduce any anxiety or uncertainty from the consultation by coming to a decision as quickly as possible."