Health

Blind people 'hit by social care crisis'

Blind person with cane
Image caption The support blind people get in learning how to use a cane is being cut, campaigners say

The number of blind people getting help from councils has dropped by over 40% in England in six years, data shows.

The analysis by the Royal National Institute of Blind People - based on official figures - found just under 32,000 got support last year - down from nearly 56,000 in 2005-6.

It warned that if current trends continued, no-one would be getting support from councils within a decade.

The charity said the situation was "wholly unacceptable".

People with sight problems may need help with activities such as cooking and shopping.

Those who are newly diagnosed may also be entitled to rehabilitation support, which can include help learning to use aids, like canes.

'Toughest time'

The data included people of all ages and once again illustrates the problems councils are encountering in providing means-tested social care.

Much of the attention on the issue has been associated with the struggle elderly people are facing in getting support.

But the RNIB said its research showed others were affected too.

Chief executive Lesley-Anne Alexander said: "Not only does sight loss have a massive emotional impact, but it also means having to re-learn almost every aspect of your life.

"Being left alone to cope with sight loss is wholly unacceptable. No matter how tight the budgets of government are, this is essential support which must be provided. The government needs to act now."

A spokesman for the Local Government Association said: "Councils would love to be able to provide the same level of support they did in 2005 but a 43% cut to local government funding means that simply is not possible.

"Councils are having to take incredibly difficult decisions on how they prioritise their budgets and unfortunately a tightening of eligibility criteria has been unavoidable across all care services, including those for the visually impaired.

"Councils continue to provide on-going support to the people who would have the toughest time coping without help."

Care and Support Minister Norman Lamb said: "We recognise the pressures on local councils to deliver these services and that is why we have allocated them with additional funding for adult social care over the next two years, which will provide an extra £100m in 2013/14, and £200m in 2014/15. This is on top of the £3.8bn pooled health and social care budget we have set up to help make sure everyone gets properly joined up health and care services from whoever is best placed to deliver it - whether that's the NHS or the local authority."

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