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Is It All About Cuts?

Author: Simon Duffy

If you had asked me a few years ago whether self-directed support was all about cuts I would have said ‘no’ it’s got nothing to do with cuts; its about people having more control and being able to spend their own money in their own way.

But today I’d have to say that ‘yes, often it is just about cuts’. This is not primarily because of self-directed support, it is because the current government in London has targeted disabled people in its cutting of public services. For instance, in England, social care will be cut by 33% by 2015.

This means that now, for any local government who is using self-directed support, it is all too tempting to turn self-directed support into a tool for cutting. Two of the most common ways to do this are:

  1. Use questionnaires and a points systems to cut budgets and then pretend that this is a meaningful assessment (the RAS)
  2. Give people a budget but then don’t allow people to spend it freely, instead take out of the budget anything creative and positive that doesn't look like old fashioned social care (the Support Plan)

Not every local authority in England is doing this. Some, like Barnsley, realise that if you respect people’s rights and let people use the money flexibly people then will do better and the money will go further. But, for many, it is much easier to fall back into that old controlling habits where the local authority tells people what they should do with what should properly be their own money.

Of course its also important to remember that local authorities have always had ways of making cuts:

  • Raise the eligibility threshold
  • Refuse to fund packages properly
  • Increase social care charges (the extra tax disabled people are made to pay for having a disability)
  • Force people into bigger care homes and day centres

However there is no doubt that self-directed supporting offers authorities new methods for making cuts.

What is critical is to try and understand what is driving the cuts. These cuts are being targeted at disabled people because they are a weak group and easy to scapegoat. This won’t change unless we get better organised. 

One of the reasons I support the Campaign for a Fair Society is that it offers a way of bringing together many different organisations behind a Manifesto of practical ideas for change. If we just let the politicians do what they want without harrying and pushing them then we all be in big trouble. 

Perhaps it is time to stop talking about things like self-directed support as if they are solid things that exist and which cannot be changed. 

Perhaps its time to start getting political and to focus instead on ensuring that disabled people get:

  • legal entitlements to a decent level of funding
  • the right control that funding
  • the right use that funding flexibly
  • no bureaucratic interference in their lives
  • no extra unfair taxes like charging

I think progress will come by focusing on real and practical issues like legal rights, funding levels and rules and systems. Jargon won't help us.

This article was first published in the Partners for Inclusion newspaper. 

The publisher is The Centre for Welfare Reform.

Is It All About Cuts? © Simon Duffy 2012.

All Rights Reserved. No part of this paper may be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher except for the quotation of brief passages in reviews.