BBC News

Care cuts for disabled people in Greater Manchester after budgets devolved

By Richard Stead
BBC Radio Manchester

image captionApril Alton said cuts in care had left her isolated

Support for scores of severely disabled people in Greater Manchester has been cut since 2015, the BBC has learned.

Care packages were reduced for 42% of the 662 who used to receive Independent Living Fund (ILF) payments after councils took over Whitehall's budgets.

In Merseyside, Cheshire and Lancashire the cuts were 24% of 658, 22% of 254 and 8% of 390 respectively.

The Local Government Association (LGA) refused to comment on the figures and referred queries to specific councils.

The data was obtained by the BBC in a series of Freedom of Information requests.

Jon Rouse, chief officer of the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, said of the cuts in his region: "Local authorities were given this responsibility at a time when they were under huge financial pressure so unfortunately it is not a huge surprise to me."

But he added: "What I want to do on the back of the BBC's work is find out what happened to those people who lost their support. How are they coping and what lesson do we need to learn in terms of the use of resources?"

Mr Rouse also said last week's announcement in the Budget of more money for social care was good news,

"What we want to do is to ensure that local authorities prioritise people with disabilities and their carers," he added.

Debbie Abrahams, Labour's Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said the cuts had left many disabled people at their "wits' end".

The Oldham East and Saddleworth MP said they had "borne the brunt" of government spending cuts and that the public would be "horrified" by the problem.

'Personalised care'

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said people are receiving "more personalised care" and that the majority are getting a similar level of support as they did before the change.

April Alton, from Offerton in Stockport, has a rare neurological disorder which leaves her unable to walk and needing help with basic tasks.

She said her weekly hours of care had been cut from 62 to 27.5.

"The Independent Living Fund meant that I had someone to take me to the park," she said. "I used to go to a gardening group there and I used to take my dog with me.

"I can't do any of that now because I haven't got anyone to support me. Even shopping, I can't go out on my own.

"My whole life has just stopped. Basically I'm just in my house all the time and my life revolves around the living room. Its left me isolated and I just want a normal life."

Stockport Council said the impact of its review of each person's needs was "considered very carefully".

Analysis: Richard Stead, BBC Radio Manchester

The Independent Living Fund was set up in 1988 to allow severely disabled people to live in the community, rather than in residential care.

It went through various changes in its history and eligibility criteria were tightened as applications for it increased.

In 2010 the fund stopped taking new applicants and, despite protests and legal challenges, it was closed for existing users in 2015.

Money has now been devolved to councils who, instead of ring-fencing it, have chosen to add the cash into their overall social services budget.

This has meant that many disabled people have seen a reduction in the care they receive, while some others now get additional support.

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