‘Blatantly cruel’ cuts to disability benefits in Nottinghamshire scaled back

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Controversial cuts which affect people with severe disabilities in Nottinghamshire have been partly reversed again.

It means disabled people aged between 18 and 24, who were the hardest-hit under the previous proposals, will now no longer be penalised more harshly.

In a heated meeting about the cuts on Wednesday, Labour accused the Conservative-led county council of being ‘blatantly cruel’, and called for the whole scheme to be scrapped.

But the Conservatives said significant savings had to be made from somewhere, and that more disabled people should be helped into work.

In October, the Conservative-led Nottinghamshire County Council voted to increase the amount disabled people paid towards the care they received.

Some people were given just two days’ notice that their care bills would be increase by up to £55 a week.

The changes related to how much of people’s disability benefits they were allowed to keep before they were told to contribute towards their care.

But after a series of high-profile campaigns against the cuts, the council agreed to delay the roll-out and to introduce it in two phases, with half the cuts coming into effect in April 2019, before the full effect was felt in November this year

Now, the council has again lessened the impact. Initially, it was proposed to separate people into three age categories.

Those aged between 18 and 24 were told to contribute the most, those between 25 and 65 paid some more, and there was no change for people over a pensionable age.

Now, the lower aged bracket will be scrapped, meaning those between 18 and pensionable age will now pay the same.

Currently, 422 people aged 18 to 24 are receiving adult social care and support services.

The council says applying two rather than three age levels means 165 people aged 18 to 24 will be charged for the first time, 31 people will be asked to pay an increase in their contribution and 226 people will continue to contribute nothing.

Councillor Alan Rhodes is the Labour leader at the council, and represents Worksop North.

He said: “This is a blatantly cruel and callous attack on the most vulnerable people where they are made to feel like a burden. Once you get to that position as a society you’ve lost the plot.

“These changes are massively unpopular. People were warning us about what the consequences would be. People weren’t listened to, their concerns were not addressed, and frankly I would be embarrassed if my administration implemented a policy like this.”

Speaking to the leader of the council, Conservative councillor Kay Cutts, he said: “Scrap it altogether. You will get more plaudits from doing that and saying we got this completely wrong.”

Conservative Councillor Stuart Wallace represents Newark East, and is the chairman of the Adult Social Care committee.

He said: “I acknowledge the strength of feeling that service users have, but the reasons underpinning the decision remain the same.

“This council like all others with social care responsibilities faces significant challenges going forward in meeting the increasing demand for care.

“With a falling income from central government, and increasing demand from the people we care for, something has to give.”

“This authority has built a reputation for itself for providing excellent-quality services. Unless choices like this are made then those services will have to be cut. There is nowhere else to go.”