Carers raise concerns about cuts for elderly services

Older people and their carers had a chance to put their concerns about cuts and the future of services directly to senior council and NHS officials yesterday.

Age UK Norfolk and Age UK Norwich hosted the joint round table event at the Costessey Centre, near Norwich, where carers and representatives from older people's groups raised issues with David Harwood, Norfolk County Council's cabinet member for adult social care, and Andrew Morgan, chief executive of NHS Norfolk.

With cuts totalling up to �80m being proposed in the county council's adult social care budget – including cuts in preventative services, reductions in funding for voluntary groups, and proposals to tighten up the eligibility criteria for older people to access care – the proposals have caused widespread alarm.

Monday sees the closure of the council's Big Conversation consultation into the proposals following which the authority will set out its detailed budget plans.

Yesterday's session saw a presentation of a 'Cut Cake Not Care' petition to Mr Harwood, urging the authority to think again, and also postcards from older people detailing their concerns. Both organisations also handed in their formal joint response to the Big Consultation.

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Alan Mackim, chairman of Age UK Norfolk, said there was a concern that the cuts would fall disproportion-ately hard on the most vulnerable.

'More than half of the projected cuts that were presented by the county council fall on adult social care,' Mr Mackim said. 'This means that the burden of these proposals, if they are carried out, fall on older people, disabled people and their carers.

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'It's unlikely that these people will have either the cash or the resources to look elsewhere for alternative care and support. These people are mostly represented in the bottom 10pc income bracket, and when you are talking about choice, the choice they have is the decision to go without one necessity or another.'

Peter Walker, a carer from Gawdy Road in Norwich, whose wife Sheila lives in a residential home after being diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, said he was worried about funding.

'I think it is going to make it difficult for everybody,' Mr Walker said. 'The majority of us think it's basically cut and dried; they know where the cuts are going to come out.'

Margaret Wynn, chairman of Sprowston Day Centre, said she had real fears about the future of the service and the luncheon club which is currently used by 120 people over three days a week.

'I want to know if I am going to get some funding, because without it I will probably have to shut one of the luncheon clubs,' she said.

Phil Wells, chief executive of Age UK Norwich, said the proposed cuts in preventative services flew in the face of coalition government policy.

'I think they are digging a hole for older people; it's against government policy and I'm surprised there is even an argument about that,' he said.

David Harwood, cabinet member for adult social care, said that change was inevitable but the council was listening to the points which had been raised.

'It will also aid me in my arguments to secure as much funding as I can for the department to make sure we deliver as much as possible for those vulnerable and elderly people in Norfolk,' he said. 'There's no way we can do it without redesigning services, but it's important we continue to consult with our partners in the NHS and voluntary sector in doing that.

'When it comes to telling people exactly what we are doing, they will clearly be able to see that we have been listening to what's been said.'

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