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Posted on 25 February 2014 at 10:31 GMT

Don't Cut Us Out campaigners, Chichester, 14.2.14

Don't Cut Us Out campaigners, Chichester, 14.2.14   (Click to enlarge)

West Sussex: Callous Tories slash care services

The Don't Cut Us Out campaign was set up in February 2011, to unite campaign groups, charities and care providers in defending vulnerable people from cutbacks made by West Sussex county council (WSCC).

On 1st April 2011 anyone judged with moderate learning disabilities, physical or mental impairments, or difficulties associated with old age, was to lose all their care benefits and support. When assessing someone as having moderate learning difficulties the criteria is: can they walk, can they feed themselves, can they wash and dress themselves. Their mental age or any condition, eg autism, is not taken into account. In addition the council closed three vital day centres for disabled and elderly people and made access to its remaining day centres more difficult.

4,500 people in West Sussex are losing their social care funding leaving many who have been attending day centres and respite services for 20 years or more left at home, alone. Those approaching WSCC for help, for the first time, are being turned away. Others will be offered only information and advice but no real help. Some may receive six weeks of help in a crisis, but then be left again to cope by themselves. These are the facts of West Sussex county council's "helping people to help themselves" policy.

Valentine's Day attack

On 14th February councillors gathered at WSCC in Chichester to vote on whether to approve more brutal cuts. Despite the appalling weather, more than 100 disabled and elderly people, carers and supporters gathered outside County Hall waving banners calling on the Tory council to stop the cuts. They were outside for more than an hour and then adjourned to the public gallery to hear the debate.

As the debate began the public gallery erupted and the chairperson of the Don't Cut Us Out group strode to the front of the gallery and addressed the chamber. Despite repeated calls to sit down she refused. She made a passionate speech about the impact the cuts had made. She was followed by brilliant speeches made by people who had been directly affected by the cuts.

During these speeches the council chairman adjourned the debate and the Tory councillors left the chamber, leaving the chairman of the Don't Cut Us Out group to address Lib Dem, Labour and Ukip councillors who remained. After the protesters had finished their speeches the council meeting resumed.

Despite this brilliant fight the Tory majority held firm and the more than 100 million cuts to care services were voted through.

Undefeated, the chair of the Don't Cut Us Out group said:

"We will continue to fight on behalf of vulnerable people to ensure that their voices are heard and to challenge the council whenever their services are threatened. We have been greatly encouraged by the public's support and strength of feeling for our campaign against further cuts to care services. The chairman and leader of the council have invited us to meet with them. We hope that these discussions will be constructive and will continue to press the case for protecting essential public services for vulnerable people".

The fight continues.

Sarah Welch

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