Social care cuts prompt outrage

By Harriet Ernstsons Friday 06 December 2013 Updated: 06/12 11:43

PLANS to reduce the county's adult social care budget by £8.5 million have come under fire.

Dr Richard Harling, director of public health at Worcestershire County Council, was questioned over the proposals, currently being consulted on, at a meeting in Redditch.

If approved, they would see the budget drop from £15 million to just £6.5 million with some of the 'discretionary services' which the council is not legally obliged to cover cut and an increasing reliance on the voluntary sector.

Liz Williams, from the Redditch Partnership, said the plans were highly reliant on access to the internet - with residents being asked to take control of their own budgets and use an online marketplace to buy in services they need.

She told Dr Harling she worked in places such as Winyates where 40 per cent of people had no access to the internet.

"I am concerned especially about the older population, we are just actually stopping them being able to do the things you want them to do," she said.

"Who's going to sit with them to show them how to use these facilities? Take it across Worcestershire and it's going to be a nightmare."

Dr Harling said: "I absolutely recognise there are some people who will not be able to use the internet. We need to think about how they can access the service.

"It will be no more difficult than it is at the moment as now people can't access it online at all. It will be the primary option for people so if they can use it it's easier for them to do so, we are not saying we are going to stop everything else."

Safeguarding issues surrounding the extended use of a bank of volunteers were also raised, with Sandra Hughes from We Have A Voice - a group of carers from Redditch - querying how the council would check those working with some of the county's most vulnerable people.

Church Hill resident Ian Johnson added: "If this is implemented, how many people are going to die? Who's going to count the bodies?"

Calls were also made by Labour county councillor Graham Vickery for the public to raise their concerns about the decisions of the controlling Conservative group, which could then be potentially called in by the overview and scrutiny committee for review.

"It is open for us to challenge the decision made if the public is so minded and if county councillors are so determined. It is important for us to hear your views but important for you to realise too that Redditch is not represented by the controlling group, it's represented by the opposition. That puts Redditch in a very difficult, lonely and frustrating position."

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