Campaigners consider legal action over ‘deadly’ social care cuts in Derbyshire

Protesters held a rally outside County Hall over the cuts.Protesters held a rally outside County Hall over the cuts.
Protesters held a rally outside County Hall over the cuts.
Campaigners are considering legal action after council chiefs approved “deadly” cuts which will affect thousands of vulnerable adults.

More than 8,000 elderly and disabled people will lose access to their home care and be forced to pay more for help under the controversial measures passed by Derbyshire County Council (DCC) on Tuesday.

The move by the Labour-led authority – which must shed £157million from its budget by 2018 because of Government austerity – will help save £60m.

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Gary Matthews, of the Disabled People Against Cuts campaign group, told the Derbyshire Times he had spoken to a solicitor about the possibility of launching a judicial review over the cuts.

He said: “They amount to nothing more than crimes against humanity and we are seeking urgent legal advice.

“It’s no longer a question of cuts – it’s a question of life and death.

“We will have elderly and disabled people who will lose their care – this will lead to a deterioration in health.

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“We will have elderly and disabled people who will have to pay more for their care – this will send them further into poverty.”

Mr Matthews added: “We asked DCC to delay these cuts for 12 months and lead a campaign against them.

“We are fed up with hearing the Labour mantra and excuse that there is no alternative.”

Councillor Clare Neill, DCC cabinet member for adult social care, said it was a sad and anxious time for many.

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She added: “We have been left with little choice but to make these cuts in the face of huge budget pressures imposed on us by the Government.”

Now, only individuals who are assessed as having substantial needs will receive free care at home.

This means up to 1,240 people who fall below that level will lose the council-funded support they have come to rely on.

Fifty-three per cent of residents told a six-month consultation they disagreed with the plan, arguing it would have a “major impact” on those who currently receive care and support from DCC.

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In her report to councillors, Mary McElvaney, acting strategic director of adult care, conceded: “This proposal will affect the quality of life of individuals who will have services withdrawn or, in the case of prospective clients, not provided at all.”

The council said those who lose their care will receive advice about other services available to them.

In addition, 7,000 people will be asked to pay more for the cost of their care – exactly how much is yet to be decided.

The consultation found residents were worried the increase would have a “significant” impact on household budgets.

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And about 1,150 individuals who use council transport to get to and from care centres will be charged £5 per day.

Lee Rowley, Conservative candidate for North East Derbyshire, said: “These cuts are a direct result of Labour’s economic failure leading up to 2010 and it is no good them pretending otherwise.

“Every cut is a political choice and Labour’s record on waste at County Hall is terrible.

“If money is so tight then why did they spend £219,000 to pay-off the council’s chief executive last year?”