For a disabled person who relies on equipment to do basic things, news that provision is being cut from the council’s budget will terrify them, so it is vital that they are aware what changes if any are happening.
If you rely on a hoist to be moved from A to B, or to go to the toilet, then the very idea that this provision could be cut or moved to another provider without you knowing would send you into a panic.
The story this week that £900,000 will be saved from the council budget by asking the NHS to take over provision of home equipment will inevitably worry carers and more importantly those being cared for.
With £47 million worth of government cuts imposed on Southwark Council between 2016-19, it is not an illogical step to make this saving, given the fact that it has no statutory obligation to provide the equipment. Indeed if the NHS under Southwark Clinical Commissioning Group can take on that responsibility then so be it. But it is paramount that these vulnerable people are constantly informed and assured that their equipment will remain and be serviced even if funding for it has changed.
Disabled people are capable of making decisions and understanding that in these times of massive cutbacks things might change. But unlike an able bodied person they cannot wait around for a new organisation to get grips with those changes. If the change in funding is going to result in any delays on updating users’ records, servicing equipment, or providing equipment, then that disabled person needs advance warning so they can make sure they are not literally left stuck. One of the biggest frustrations with being disabled is not being able to do everything as easy as you could when you are able bodied. It takes extra planning – a disabled person has to be more resourceful, but they cannot do that if they are not informed.
It is all well and good to promise that services will not be affected. In fact Cllr Richard Livingstone, who has the difficult task of making ends meet, told us: “We can of course never categorically rule out reduction in funding for services, as we are under immense financial pressure with year on year cuts to budgets and growing demand. We will always communicate any major changes to residents as soon as we are aware of the potential for them to happen.”
But alarm bells are obviously already ringing when clearly the Southwark Clinical Commissioning Group – based in the council’s Tooley Street headquarters – are still requesting details about taking over the provision.
Some might accuse this paper of scaremongering, as there has been no announcement that there will be cuts to home equipment. But we are putting our flag down for the people using the equipment to say – let us know sooner rather than later.