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Cutbacks to social care personal budgets are having a 'devastating effect', claims MP

Norman Lamb MP. Picture: PA

Norman Lamb MP. Picture: PA

PA Archive/PA Images

Disabled and elderly people getting personal budgets for their social care are bearing the brunt of government and county council cutbacks, claims North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb.

Introduced by the last Labour government and made law through the 2014 Care Act, the budgets allow people to decide how money can be spent for their care after receiving a direct payment from Norfolk County Council.

But Mr Lamb said recipients were being unfairly victimised by years of government austerity and council cutbacks, because local authorities cannot as easily cut funding to care homes and domestic care providers.

Mr Lamb said: “I have had many cases brought to my attention, including from my constituents, showing the devastating effect of funding constraints on social care.

“Instead of promoting personal budgets and direct payments and genuinely committing to a shift in power and control from the bureaucracy to individuals, what we have seen in Norfolk is a stripping out of personal budgets and a significant fall in the number of direct payments awarded to individuals within the county.”

Mr Lamb said he had heard about one woman with disabilities and anxiety, who had been able to go swimming, take horse-riding lessons, drastically reduce her weight and boost her wellbeing using her personal budget.

But last May her payment was cut, without notice, to cover only the cost of employing a personal assistant.

He said in another case brought to his attention, the council withdrew a £1,500 respite holiday provision for a woman who is cared for by her sister, and replaced it with a far more expensive ‘professional respite care’ budget to provide up to 15 days respite for the carer, at a value of £4,000.

Mr Lamb said a freedom of information request revealed the number of direct payments for personal budgets has been cut over the past five years from 3065 in 2013/14 to 2099 in 2017/18.

But Bill Borrett, the county council’s adult social care committee chairman, dismissed Mr Lamb’s claim that personal budgets were under attack.

Mr Borrett said: “I can only assume that he has not looked at the county council’s actions or policy on this matter. The County Council is fully committed to personal budgets, not only that but it is a key part of the strategy going forward and 2,700 people are receiving direct payments.”

-Have you had an experience regarding personal budgets and direct payments from Norfolk County Council you would like to share? Email stuart.anderson@archant.co.uk

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