Equal Lives written contribution to the Norfolk County Council consultation on the cuts

“It’s taken the pressure off my family, off the children and left me being able to go out and do my own shopping and do an activity, maybe with them as a family where I couldn’t before. It’s taken the stress off the children, they can now be children and not young carers.” Personal Budget User

At Equal Lives, we know, because of our vast experience and knowledge, that the cuts proposed to Adult Social Care will be the end of personalisation. The suggested cuts will result in disabled and older people becoming ‘prisoners’ in our homes, as well as imposing an intolerable burden on families and carers. While it may seem to an accountant that the ‘social activity’ part of personal budgets is a luxury that can be easily dispensed with and offer an easy way of saving money, this calculation ignores both the personal impact on the lives of service users, as well as also the medium and long-term financial costs, and the short-term costs, that will inevitably follow as people are forced up the ladder of need. It goes against almost every aspect of the Council’s own Prevention Agenda. In short, it will result in a massively false economy – a lose-lose proposal.

Equal Lives

Equal Lives (formerly The Norfolk Coalition of Disabled People), its members and service users have worked in close partnership with Norfolk County Council since the passage of Community Care (Direct Payments) Act 1996 to develop Direct Payments (DP) and subsequently Personal Budgets (PB). Our organization has been supporting people to use direct payments since 1998. In 2001 it won Norfolk County Council’s tender for a direct payments support service and established Independent Living Norfolk (ILN), just one of the services which was managed by the Norfolk Coalition of Disabled People. At this time just 80 people used direct payments in the county.

In April 2013 the organisation was rebranded and is now known as Equal Lives. We provide specialist advice and support services to more than 3,000 people using self-directed support in Norfolk. More than 1,700 personal assistant employers use our payroll service and we hold more than 2,500 supported accounts on behalf of direct payments users in Norfolk.

Equal Lives provides advice and support to individuals using Personal Budgets and/or Direct Payments funded by the local authorities in Norfolk and Suffolk, the NHS, through personal health budgets or to individuals who fund their own care and support.

In relation to self directed support our services include:

  • Assisting an individual to think about how they might like to use their Personal Budget and assistance with writing their support plan
  • Support to set up Direct Payments
  • Advice on arranging individual care and support
  • Advice on arranging care and support for disabled child
  • Support with recruitment of personal assistants
  • Advice and support to individuals on being a good employer
  • A payroll service to support individuals in working out wages
  • A Supported Account service to support individuals to manage their Direct Payment monies

“The proofs in the pudding, I’m still here and I’m still reasonably happy, I can cope with life, I’m in control of my own life, responsible for myself and I have quite a few friends that have received personal budgets, mental health service users and it’s had exactly the same effect for them as well. It’s given them choice, it’s given them confidence, self esteem and it’s got them re-engaged with their communities, so to me personal budgets are essential.” “PB User”

Wider Implications of the Proposed Cuts

These proposals violate the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) which the UK Government has signed and ratified. In particular they violate Article 19 which states:

“Persons with disabilities must be able to live independently, to be included in the community, to choose where and with whom to live and to have access to in-home, residential and community support services”.

Norfolk spends less per head of population on adult social care than most council’s across the UK (see Appendix 1 below). On top of this, Norfolk’s population has more older and disabled people than most other counties, so the cuts will have both a disproportionate and discriminatory effect.

The Council’s own high level equality impact assessment states:

“At this early stage in the process, it is clear that the budget proposals, if implemented in their current form, would disproportionately impact on disabled residents of Norfolk, their carers and families. Because of the association between disability and the increased chance of developing medical conditions and frailty as people age, older people will also be disproportionately affected. This impact is likely to be felt in several ways. It may limit disabled and older people’s independence and resources, and affect their quality of life and mobility across the county. It may restrict their access to the built environment, public transport and leisure activities. It may increase their vulnerability to loneliness and social isolation, and place greater responsibilities of care on their families, friends and colleagues.”

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