On 29 January, Greenwich Council cabinet decided to charge people £1.6 million more for social care, and make £8m cuts to the free rehabilitation which people coming out of hospital are entitled to get, and other support.
Here is the South London Press report by James Twomey. Plus below, our Kate Brown‘s speech to the Scrutiny Committee about her own situation.
The cost of care could increase by as much as 30 per cent for some Greenwich residents.
The changes include plans to increase the hourly rate for homecare services by £1.65, to end subsidised community meals and start charging users of the emergency contact Telecare system on housing benefits £6 a week.
The decisions were branded by attendees as “an attack on the most vulnerable in society,” and “a tax on disabled people”.
The controversial decision from Greenwich council, taken at a heated meeting on Wednesday night, followed 15 months of consultations and protests by residents against the proposals, but the cabinet committee voted unanimously in favour of the changes.
“How does it feel like being a murderer?” Fred Williams, a wheelchair user, asked councillors.
“The stress of these proposals will lead to some people killing themselves which will be your responsibility. There will be a high development of people with mental health issues.
“And you will be taken to court by me,” he added.
The councillors said some proposals would be implemented under review, which could be withdrawn if they were seen to not be working.
Sue Elsegood, chairwoman of Metro-GAD, the Greenwich Association of Disabled People, said: “An extra charge of £6 a week for Telecare is a drop in the ocean for people earning £30,000 or £35,000.
“But to somebody on £90 a week, which is what you are condemning us to live on in many cases, it is more than five per cent of our weekly income.
“And you will be forcing us to make impossible choices. For example between essential money for Telecare and money for food, heat or personal assistance support.
“Not only do disabled people rarely earn the colossal salaries that you might, our cost of living is also far higher than for a non-disabled person, and through absolutely no fault of our own.
“All our life we have just had to grin and bear it – and you are now proposing to kick us while we are down.
“I feel totally disappointed. The council won’t take on board our response and I feel really concerned for the welfare of disabled people in the borough.
“Why are they putting the proposals through just to see if that happens?”
Speaking about the decision, Jenny Hurst, another wheelchair user and resident, said she was “absolutely gutted” and that it was the “wrong decision”.
Cabinet members who spoke at the meeting said austerity policies and reduced funding from central government had driven their decision.
Councillor Jane Smith said: “If we don’t balance our books the government will come and take us over. Please don’t think we take this decision lightly.”
Leader of Greenwich council, Danny Thorpe, said: “Austerity has had a massive impact and it’s a massive challenge to balance the books.
“Ten years ago we would have had more than £100m more for social services than we do today, which in real terms means there is £1,400 less per household in Greenwich.
“So that’s the challenge and that’s where these proposals have come from.”
Questions remain about what charges they actually voted through. They all said “agreed” to the officers’ report, but some proposals had more than one option (pointed out by Jenny Hurst from Greenwich DPAC). Also about where the Better Care and Independent Living funds paid to Greenwich from central government are directed.
To RB Greenwich Scrutiny Committee 8 January 2020 – Kate Brown
I became a wheelchair user after I was stabbed in a homophobic attack which resulted in a stroke three days later. I am now a pensioner and benefits are my only income. I pay £65 care charges per week, and with the changes RBG (Royal Borough of Greenwich) want to make, this could increase to £105 per week or more. This sounds overdramatic, but if I had to cut down to pay the extra, it would be on food, or the clothes and bedding that I need as I am double incontinent. I still get Disability Living Allowance as I was born in 1948. DLA is made up of a mobility component and care component. The mobility component is paid totally to Motability to pay for my wheelchair accessible car. The care component is £87.65 which RBG says I have to pay £65 of, towards my PA’s wages each week, leaving me with £22.65 to pay for any extra help I might need. If RBG increase my contribution I will have NO DLA at all.
I have lots of disability expenses which are not covered by the NHS or Council.
I had to buy my electric wheelchair privately as the NHS didn’t allow it as I have epilepsy. A replacement footplate I needed has cost me £103. My chair needs new batteries but I have checked online and the cost for my Pride Quantum Lightning batteries range between £300 to £376.
I received funding from the Independent Living Fund (ILF) for 28 years. The ILF ended in 2015 and RBG took over. After a year on full funding, a social worker cut my hours from 168 a week to 27 ½ in just a 20-minute visit. During the interview she said my family should help me and I should be ashamed to have strangers looking after me. I felt that the social worker was suspicious and homophobic towards me.
The loss of hours has really cut down how many times I can go out of my home.
The cuts have made a great deal of difference to my family, not just to me. My son and grandson live in Abbey Wood, 15 minutes away from me by bicycle. Their lives have drastically changed since the loss of my PA hours. I had two bad seizures recently, one which landed me in hospital for 5 days. My son feels scared to leave me, yet needs to be there for his son too – my grandson works in Dartford in a warehouse on the late shift and gets home at 11.30pm each night. When my son is with me, my grandson has no hot dinner and no one to talk to when he gets in late.
Since my hours have been cut, I’ve been diagnosed with Breast Cancer and diverticular disease. The diverticular disease has again added to my expenses as I have had to buy more incontinence underwear, which is not supplied by the NHS, and bedding.
I am a long-term member of WinVisible, a multi-racial self-help group of disabled women which is London-wide and national. In other boroughs we have seen the terrible impact on people’s lives of cuts and increased charges, with many women struggling alone deprived of essential support. We’ve also seen the positive lead by Hammersmith & Fulham abolishing charges.
Don’t go ahead with these harmful cuts and charges.