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8 December 2010

Council cuts put most vulnerable at risk


Build the fightback against all cuts

The Tory/Liberal-led Birmingham council is preparing to trim 300 million from its budget by 2014 by cutting 10,000 jobs and devastating services. Amongst the cuts is its chilling proposal to set eligibility criteria for social care at 'super-critical'. This will become the norm for disabled and older people across England and Wales unless the Con-Dem cuts are stopped.

A Unison member

Adult social care services are provided under a 'Fair Access to Care Services' policy.

This identifies the four social services eligibility bands - low, moderate, substantial and critical.

Birmingham council is aiming to restrict formal council-funded care to people with critical personal care needs, excluding those with substantial needs and those with critical needs who do not need help with personal care.

In layman's terms, the only social services that will be funded are those that ensure disabled people with the most complex needs are fed, bathed, dressed and toileted, and kept safe from serious harm, neglect or abuse.

This move will go much further than the already draconian critical eligibility criteria of Northumberland, West Berkshire and Wokingham councils.

For now, these councils meet all critical needs, including help with involvement in work or adult education and vital social relationships or family responsibilities.

Those disabled people and family carers living in Birmingham who will no longer be eligible for help will be expected to turn to charities and the voluntary sector for information, advice, advocacy and support.

This will not be much comfort for those who need a lot of physical help to get dressed, stay clean and tidy their homes, or those who are being neglected or abused but do not qualify for support.

Neither will it help the thousands of children under 16 in Birmingham who already provide care and support to parents and siblings, or the tens of thousands of family carers.

In keeping with Cameron's Big Society, Birmingham council is emphasising the role of volunteers in the provision of some council services.

But the thousands of social care workers who struggled to work every day during the severe weather have a right to ask if volunteers would do the same thing even if a vulnerable person was relying upon them.

When Birmingham council goes 'super-critical' it will be the logical conclusion of the underfunding of social services by successive Tory and New Labour governments since the 1980s.

The Fair Access to Care Services policy was introduced by New Labour to ensure social services provision was consistent across England and Wales.

It turns out that the only consistency being achieved is the decimation of essential social services for hundreds of thousands of working class people.

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