90-Year-Old Upset By Social Service Cuts

Cuts in social services are starting to take their toll on the elderly and infirm as help with shopping, housework and cooking is scrapped. Cash-strapped Wiltshire county council is reviewing the care packages of all its service users and many vulnerable adults have already been told that the amount of help they will receive from home carers will be significantly reduced. In a bid to save £2 million, the council has announced that only “substantial or critical needs” will be met and that elderly and disabled people may have to pay for private services or rely on help from family and friends if they need assistance with buying groceries or looking after their houses.

The decision has angered relatives who have accused the council of neglecting vulnerable people who need help to continue living in their own homes. Among them is Nicholas Bailey whose mother Annie is 90 years old and on crutches, and is about to have the number of daily visits at her Amesbury home cut from three to two.

“They will still help her to get up in the morning and pop in for a short time in the evening but they are stopping the lunchtime visit which was always the most important of the day because they helped with the housework and shopping,” said Mr Bailey.

“Now she’s got no food coming in, no cleaning and no mid-day visit – how is she supposed to manage? I run my own business and there’s only a certain amount I can do. They said she could pay for private care but why should we pay twice? My mother is very upset by this – she wants to stay in her own home but she needs more help not less.”

Wiltshire county council says that several factors have led to the crisis which is effecting local authorities across the country.

Increased demand from an ageing population, fewer services provided by the NHS, strict rules capping council tax increases and smaller settlements from central government have stretched services to breaking point.

“It is regrettable but we have had to redefine our criteria to only meet substantial or critical needs and we will be reviewing all our care packages,” said head of service for adult community services, Jeanette Longhurst.

“We have every sympathy with those who will see their packages reduced but many of them are very expensive and it would be very unfair not to be able to provide any services to new people who come to us in need. We are looking at ways to help people stay self-sufficient for longer.

“This could involve increased involvement from families and friends, voluntary organisations and communities – a wonderful case study is a local shop delivering groceries to an elderly lady who could not manage to go shopping on her own.

“We also have a new advice and assessment team to help people to know their options before they even need our help. Some users might want to look at the independent sector.

“We have to try to find a way of making social services sustainable. We do not want safety to be comprised but services will have to be spread more thinly.”