Whitehaven News column – 27th November 2014

Cuts hitting the most vulnerable
A measure of a Government is how they treat the most vulnerable in society in the hardest of times.  By measuring the current Government by this yard stick shows they are failing and failing badly.  Cumbria County Council have to provide many services, one of which is adult social care.  The scale of Government cuts that are facing Cumbria County Council means they are having to do this with their hands tied behind their back.
 
A recent report by the National Audit Office has shown that 40% of the total savings that councils have been forced to make this year and last, have come through reducing adult social care services.  The people who rely on these services can be the most vulnerable in our communities.  These services work with adults who have physical disabilities, learning disabilities, blind and deaf people, those with mental health needs and also offer huge assistance to carers.  Put simply, these services are essential.  The social care workers work incredibly hard to provide the highest quality of services, but these cuts are putting them in an impossible position.
Those in need rely on these services to help them live independent lives, to give them choice and control over their lives and to ensure that they lead a healthy, safe and active life. 
The Government has cut the funding of Cumbria County Council by huge amounts already, but it faces more and more in the coming year.  This picture is being replicated all over the country and local services are struggling to cope.  The local authorities facing the hardest cuts are having to cut social care services by even more. 
Health services in Cumbria are under increasing pressure and further Government-enforced cuts to social care will exacerbate the situation.  More and more of those that use adult social care services are being forced to A&E departments that are already full to bursting.  Even worse, people who are in hospital aren’t able to go home, because care plans aren’t in place to take care of them.  This is a shameful failing by the Government and one that they could have avoided.
I raised this issue with at Prime Minister’s Questions this week, but the Prime Minister couldn’t offer a solution.  The ‘Better Care’ fund which the Government put in place was found by the NAO to be well behind where it should be and achieving little of what was expected of it.
These cuts are having a devastating effect on the ability of councils to provide services.  The NAO found that service provision is falling.  The biggest cuts handed down from Government have resulted in the biggest cuts in care budgets.

These cuts are impacting upon all of the council’s services, but it is the impact on adult social care services that are hitting the most vulnerable.  This cannot continue and the Government must take action.  I will continue to press the Prime Minister on this issue until he does something about it.
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