Stirling disabled advice scheme hit by council cuts

STIRLING Council has been slammed for withdrawing annual funding of £18,000 from an organisation which supports disabled people. But it says it is going to use its own staff to give the advice.

Independent Living Association Forth Valley has been supported by Falkirk, Clackmannanshire and Stirling Councils in recent years to provide advice and support to people who need community care and want to use direct payments.

The direct payments system lets them arrange their own care, instead of relying on social services provision.

MSP Richard Simpson said it is unfair that ILA is being made to suffer when it is at the mercy of the council’s social work department for referrals.

He said: “This decision is wrong on a number of counts.

“Firstly, why has Stirling social work department not made many referrals to ILA Forth Valley in the last year and encouraged people to look at the direct payments option?

“Secondly, why has the council acted unilaterally in withdrawing funding without consulting the partner authorities and by doing so put the viability of the organisation at risk?

“This is yet another cut in services to the vulnerable in our communities. Given the SNP in the Scottish Parliament say councils have had the best financial settlement since devolution, I fail to see why so many social services are in disarray.”

Stirling Council’s head of social care Bill Eadie said: “The three-year agreement between the council and the Independent Living Association Forth Valley was coming to an end in March 2010 and we took the opportunity to consider the impact of the work of the group on the uptake of direct payments.

“We are committed to improving the uptake of direct payments in Stirling which has been lower than would otherwise be expected. We want to create a Stirling focus to this area of work and initially will be delivering the service through investing in the benefits advice team in the council.

“We expect to see an improvement in the uptake of direct payments as a result of this activity and this is not an attempt to reduce expenditure.”