Campaigners say cuts to adult social care funding will have “devastating consequences” for disabled people in Bristol as they protest outside City Hall.
Protesters from community group Bristol Reclaiming Independent Living (BRIL) gathered outside City Hall from 1pm this afternoon (Wednesday, March 3) ahead of the full council vote on this year’s budget, which includes £11mn of cuts to adult social care provision in addition to planned cuts to the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) budget.
The protest was steeped in symbolism. Individuals wore balls and chains on their ankles, a broom was used to sweep their concerns under the carpet, and a mock coffin labelled “independent living” was carried into City Hall.
In a statement BRIL said the cuts, ‘will have devastating consequences for disabled and older people in the city.’
They go on to say that ‘without services and support it is impossible for disabled people to live full and active lives.’
The budget was voted through by full council later in the afternoon.
Areas where the council will seek savings include
- a £500,000 reduction in direct payments for adult social care
- a £1,000,000 reduction in Care and Support plans
- a £350,000 saving by moving people to NHS Continuing Health Care Funding
- a £1,000,000 privatisation of Concorde Lodge (a residential assessment unit for mental health aftercare)
Beyond the immediate impact of the cuts, campaigners with BRIL are angry at what they see as efforts by the council to sideline their concerns. The council refers to cuts to services as “maximising independence”, but campaigners take offence at this, arguing that replacement services like technologies to support independent living are not sufficient replacements for personal care.
As part of their protest, BRIL handed bingo cards to councillors full of euphemisms and excuses frequently used when discussing adult social care.
Changes to adult social care were brought into law by the Coalition government in 2014 via the Care Act, which made it the responsibility of local authorities to prevent people needing or accessing care and support in the first place by “improving independence and wellbeing”. For instance by signposting people to alternatives such as community-based services.
To meet these new statutory requirements, Bristol City Council hired public service consultancy firm Impower to streamline service provision. Impower were reportedly paid £286,855 for their work.
Impower implemented a “demand management” strategy based on a “3-Tier” approach to care in which people were provided first with “help to help yourself”, next with “help when you need it” and finally “help to live your life”.
As a result, the number of people accessing home, residential and nursing care dropped by 18% according to Impower.
Megan, who attended the protest, said that she chooses to pay for the support she needs from her disability benefits rather than use the more expensive council services. As time goes on, however, Megan will require more support and could eventually require help from the council.
‘The future is scary,’ she said, as she reflected on the impacts today’s cuts, and future cuts, will have on her and others she knows.