One of the major casualties of the county cuts is care for those with learning disabilities. ANDREW SNELL speaks to a mother who will be affected by the slashed services.
Tim has severe learning difficulties and can’t speak. He has both epilepsy and cerebral palsy. The nearest diagnosis doctors have offered is Ohtahara Syndrome, the same condition that Prime Minister David Cameron’s son Ivan died of in 2009.
The 28-year-old is cared for by his mother, Pat Fleming, 63. It’s a 24-hour-a-day, all year round job, even with the help of a day nurse.
“Things were worst when he was younger,” she explains. “On a good night I would get to bed at 1:30, and then I’d be up with him every 20 minutes. If I was lucky I’d get about 3 hours sleep in total.”
One blessing was the possibility of respite care. Fourteen nights of the year Tim went to a specialised centre and Pat got the chance to sleep or the opportunity to spend quality time with her daughter Susannah.
But it is this vital service which is at risk after the county council approved budget proposals to slash respite funding. At least one centre will be forced to close within the next 12 months as part of the local spending review.
It is a measure which is set to pile more financial pressure on already hard-pressed families like the Flemings.
When social services means tested Tim to see how much money his care required, it was discovered that he in fact “owed” his mother £27 a month for the work she did to support him.
Pat doesn’t get a carers allowance because she is officially retired and she doesn’t get a large pension because she gave up a lucrative job when Tim was born so she could look after him full-time.
Although it is money that she is willing to pay to offer him quality of life, further cuts from Westminster are already looming.
“The government have already passed the bill which will cut our mobility allowance and that could mean we lose the van we use to get around. We can’t rely on buses because his wheelchair doesn’t fit in the space and we can’t afford taxis to go everywhere.
“It’s going to be almost impossible to get anywhere with him.
“I don’t know where they think families are going to find the money to support themselves. It’s not a ‘Big Society’ that the government is building, just an unfair and uncaring one.”
Pat is particularly concerned about the long-term effects of the care cuts for those with disabilities.
“In the long term it’s going to cost the government a lot more and a lot more children with learning difficulties won’t survive.
“Back in the 70s there was little care available and if someone with severe disabilities like Tim went in to hospital, then they only came out again in a box. That’s where we’re heading back to now.
“We do need to make savings somewhere, but not by putting the most vulnerable people at risk”
Tim’s sister, Susannah, has written about growing up as the sibling of a severely disabled child. You can read her experiences here: http://www.susz.me.uk/sibs/achtalk.html