At last, after three years of cuts to social care, there now seems to be a growing awareness that there may be a problem in cutting this vital public service. Sadly that problem, at least as far as the newspapers see it, is that this may lead to cuts in the NHS budget. There seems to be much less concern that the cuts to social care have already led to radical reductions in support for disabled children, disabled people, older people and their families.
The recent announcement by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services follows two years of similar announcements and will precede at least two more. Similar cuts are underway in children services. By 2015 social care will be cut by over £8 billion - that is a cut of about 33%. This is an astonishing reduction in support - but it flows inevitably from the 42% cut in local government funding that the government planned in 2010. It makes a nonsense of all the government's commitments to reform social care funding.
Cuts of this severity were always going to affect the NHS. Social care is often the efficient alternative to healthcare - a sensible government would be shifting resources into social care first.
For people with disabilities the radical reduction in social care will now be combined with deep cuts to benefits - both disability and non-disability related benefits. The cumulative impact of all these cuts will be to impose the greatest burden of cuts on people with the severest disabilities.
Earlier this year I wrote a report called A Fair Society? how the cuts target disabled people on behalf of the Campaign for a Fair Society. Working from the government's own data it was clear that the average annual impact of cuts in services and income for people with the severest disabilities will be nearly £9,000 by 2015. This is 19 times the burden of cuts faced by the rest of us.
There can be no doubt who is the hardest hit by the cuts - it's disabled people (and that includes many of our children, our parents and our grandparents). Again the question must be asked - did the government know what it was doing when it focused the cuts on social care and benefits - or is this just some thoughtless accident?
The campaign group Pat's Petition identified this problem very early on, and they called for the government to do its sums - in technical terms - to do a 'cumulative impact assessment' of its own policies. So far the government has refused. Its position seems to be that the task is too complex. If you think about this for just a moment then you will realise what a shocking position this is for the government to take. The government, which spends billions on its on the civil service, on research, evaluation and statistical analysis, claims that it cannot work out the likely impact of its own policies. Yet it has embarked on those policies anyway.
Or, it does know, but doesn't care, that its policies harm the very people that a decent society should do its best to protect.
Earlier this year Liam Byrne agreed to set an Opposition Day Debate on this topic, yet so far there has been no debate. Hopefully this will change soon and Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition will use their power to draw the public's attention to this scandal.
Whether intentional or not the government's strategy of targeting cuts on disabled people is the very opposite of its declared intention to make the cuts fairly. It is a policy which is unfair and unBritish. I hope that the British people and the British media wake up to what is going on as soon as possible.
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