COME and spend a day finding out what it’s like to be disabled and have your care support axed: that is the challenge from a man with severe muscular dystrophy backed by Midhurst’s leading ‘Don’t Cut Us Out’ campaigner Margaret Guest.
The challenge has gone out to West Sussex county councillors following Friday’s debate when campaigners failed to force a rethink on the controversial cuts.
Laying down the gauntlet, they said: “Do more and come and spend some time with a disabled person. Learn first-hand about the difficulties they face having lost their support, and the difference between living and surviving.
“They are eagerly waiting to tell you about ‘credible alternatives to cuts in care’.”
Mrs Guest, who was at the forefront of the fight to keep council day services in Midhurst, is a former senior manager with WSCC adults services and now chairs the Don’t Cut Us Out Campaign. Here she sets out why the challenge is being issued...
“On Friday I witnessed a powerful and moving speech by Peter Adams, a man with severe muscular dystrophy, who asked WSCC to rethink its decision to cut services to those assessed with so-called moderate needs.
“I also witnessed a far less impressive presentation from councillors – the impassive faces in front of Peter and myself as he spoke on behalf of elderly and disabled people, more than 80 of whom were in the public gallery, watching hopefully.
“Peter and I overheard a remark by a councillor expressing doubt that Peter’s life was really such a struggle. This prompted Peter to say, ‘They really have no idea what it is like. They should come and spend a day with me and really see how I am’.
“Another councillor urged his colleagues to ‘harden their hearts against emotional judgements’ as if the hard facts of the impact of the cuts as described by Peter were not deserving of an intelligent rational response.
“There were several gasps of outrage from the gallery but people were quickly silenced as showing ‘inappropriate behaviour’, unlike that of councillors, of course, some of whom appeared to me to be dozing.
“The leader of the council, Louise Goldsmith, said there was a risk reserves could soon be used up if spent on reinstating care services. This, I believe, is a cynical misrepresentation of the actual position. Reserves are continually added to, as is shown by the recent addition of £30m, and have been growing over the past few years bringing the total to £176m. Other councils are using their reserves to maintain front-line services and indeed the government is encouraging them to do so. This council has used its reserves in the past to improve services so why not now?
“My overall impression was of a complete lack of empathy with disabled people and an absence of intelligent consideration as to any possibility of taking a different direction to one of continuing cuts.”
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