DISABLED people fear being forced out of their own homes and into residential care centres due to controversial council spending cuts.
About 2,000 residents with severe disabilities get around-the-clock care in Worcestershire, which includes flexible visits at home and 24-hour support for tasks such as dressing, washing and feeding.
But the county council says the costs are too high and moving severely disabled people into care homes will save it £500,000 over the next four years.
From now on, all new service users will be offered alternatives such as living in care homes or ‘cluster’ flats, with on-call nursing.
The changes will mean that anyone currently receiving the package will be faced with the agonising decision to go into a home if their needs “escalate” and are deemed to be too expensive to maintain at home.
At-home support will be generally avoided unless families can contribute to the costs, or in cases where it is cheaper than a residential care home.
The change was voted through by the county council’s Conservative cabinet yesterday, despite bitter opposition from campaigners.
At the start of the meeting Jacky Payton, co-chair of the Worcestershire Coalition for Independent Living, said: “This has the potential to restrict choice and goes against the ethos of independent living.
“It is difficult to see how it will not force people into residential care.”
The council’s community care package has cost taxpayers £11 million in the last six years alone. It also says 100 current users' needs cost more than £52,000-a-year each, with one disabled person’s bill spiralling to £232,000 in just 12 months.
At-home support is about three times more expensive than placing people into care homes. Worcestershire County Council’s cabinet member for adult social care, Councillor Philip Gretton, said: “The approach will be to compare, on an individual basis, the costs of meeting their needs in a residential setting against the costs of meeting it in the community.
“This will allow a discussion about how their needs could be met in the community in a way that is comparable.
“We won’t ‘force’ people into care homes,” he said.
“People coming into the service with progressively higher needs are not being matched by those who leave it, because happily, people are now living longer.”
Collette Jackson knows all about the daily problems people with disabilities face.
The 47-year-old, of Himbleton Road, St John’s, Worcester, was born with cerebral palsy and also suffers arthritis and spinal problems.
As a recipient of the council’s community care package, she gets help with routine tasks like getting dressed for the day ahead.
“I’m livid,” she said. “My fiance Anthony does the bulk of my support but I also rely on these carers to help me.
“We should be going forwards in society, not backwards. My worry is what could happen if my needs escalate. If I’m forced to go into a home I won’t be independent, will I? Now, I can go outside when I want to go out. I can do what I want, I’ve got freedom.
“This could affect my relationship, and my life. So many disabled people are worried.”