Challenge issued to MPs to secure a better deal for Norfolk
- Credit: © ARCHANT NORFOLK PHOTOGRAPHI
A call to arms has gone out to Norfolk MPs to do more to lessen severe cuts which will hit the most vulnerable people in the county.
The demand for MPs to secure Norfolk a 'rural premium' from the Government has been issued by 11 older people's groups, who fear the 'draconian' cuts will have increasingly poor consequences for vulnerable people of all ages.
The open letter comes as two of the organisations involved, Age UK Norfolk and Age UK Norwich, plan to re-launch their successful Cut Cake Not Care campaign against public service cuts - in particular the £140m proposed savings by Norfolk County Council over the next three financial years.
The letter says: 'The people of Norfolk demand that our MPs act in the best interests of Norfolk and challenge the government's focus on such draconian cuts to local government support, which make the most vulnerable in our community still more so.'
Eamon McGrath, who is leading the campaign for Age UK Norfolk, said it had previously helped to prevent the council from raising the threshold at which people can secure help from adult social services.
He said: 'Although nothing has been said about raising criteria, where they are threatening to take some services and activities away, to do that looks like it's raising the criteria by stealth.'
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He said he was particularly concerned about plans to save £12m by reducing funding for wellbeing activities for people who receive personal budgets,
Mr McGrath said: 'It's just hitting the most vulnerable people who have already been the most severely affected by a lot of the government cuts already.
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'We are not campaigning just for older people. For example, we recognise that people with learning difficulties in their 40s and 50s are generally cared for by their older people parents and we have to fight these cuts for them as well.
'We have said before that the MPs need to be fighting the corner for the county a lot better than they have been doing.'
Sue Whitaker, Labour cabinet member for Norfolk County Council's adult social services, said out of its £189m funding gap, £91m was due to a reduction in the government grant, while the rest was down to an increase in services, for example beacuse of an ageing population.
Ms Whitaker said the council had done the 'sensible and easy things' to save £140m over the last three years, and now it faced very difficult decisions which would affect care and services.
She said: 'I would hope the MPs would be prepared to help us and that they do lobby on our behalf.
'It has been extremely difficult having to go out to talk to groups and other people, such as those with disabilities and carers, and having to explain about how we are going to have to cut the budget.
'Any help we can get will be more than welcome.'
Tim Allard, executive manager of Norfolk Carers Support, said staff and volunteers were already starting to feel the operational impact of cuts to mental health services.
He added that he did not feel the county council had matched its strategic aims to where it was proposing to spend money or make savings, and that the impact of the planned cuts had not been properly assessed.
He said: 'If the bus subsidies go for young people, then those young carers who lose it could also experience cuts in terms of adult community care budgets or other budgets which affect the people they are caring for.'
North Norfolk Liberal Democrat MP Norman Lamb said: 'There's a long-running debate I have been heavily involved in to try to make sure the rural nature of Norfolk and many other counties is properly reflected in funding and I think that pressure should continue.'
He added that the Government would be spending £3.8bn in the next few years on an integrated care fund to help local authorities and health bodies to provide health and social care together.
However, he said he felt councils in Norfolk could do more to work together to reduce any duplication of administrative costs so that adult and elderly care services can be protected.
Elizabeth Truss, Conservative MP for south-west Norfolk, said: 'I have raised with the government the fact that rural counties, like Norfolk, have increased challenges in delivering services compared to urban areas. I will continue to press this point to ensure that Norfolk receives a fair settlement.'Norfolk County Council's consultation on the proposals for budget cuts, and a list of consultation meetings, can be viewed online at www.norfolk.gov.uk/puttingpeoplefirst
Information on how to get involved in the Cut Cake not Care campaign, for example by sending letters to MPs and county councillors, is available on the Age UK Norfolk website at www.ageuk.org.uk/norfolk/