Norfolk charity warns information service cuts could lead to debt and homelessness

Mark Harrison, front left, chief executive of Equal Lives,attends a previous protest over cuts for t

Mark Harrison, front left, chief executive of Equal Lives,attends a previous protest over cuts for the disabled and carers. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2015

Proposed cuts in funding for a service which provides information and advice for disabled people could increase debt and exacerbate mental health problems, a charity has warned.

As part of its budget for next year, which looks to make £11m savings in adult social care, Norfolk County Council is considering reducing the amount of money it spends to commission information and advice services by £250,000.

One of the charities which provides such services is Framingham Pigot-based Equal Lives and its chief executive Mark Harrison said cutting the funding would put a vital service at risk.

He said: 'There's a huge range of people who make use of that service - it's older people, younger people, people with learning disabilities.

'By getting information and advice early it saves money in the longer term. It prevents people from getting into debt, from potentially becoming homeless and suffering from poor mental health.'

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Mr Harrison said the service had helped people to understand what they were legally entitled to,, including personal budgets; to access mental health support; to get employment advice and to assist with court proceedings.

Mr Harrison said central government was to blame for County Hall having to consider such cuts.

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But he said: 'When the cuts were proposed last year, everybody agreed they were ridiculous and they were withdrawn.

'But the council now does not have any wiggle room, so they are looking at them again.

'Yet it doesn't make sense politically or economically to make cuts which will end up adding costs later.'

The council says, instead of receiving information from a specialist service, people may get information from a service that is open to everyone.

But they say, if that happens, it would make sure that the service was accessible for disabled people, people with sensory disabilities and people with learning disabilities.

The council says people might receive information at a different place, for example at GP surgeries. and via the internet.

The county council will meet to decide on its budget for 2017/18 on February 20, where there is a proposal to increase council tax by 4.8pc.

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