Fears over disability funding changes

A DISABILITY charity has today highlighted concerns about changes to social services funding in Suffolk.

A DISABILITY charity has today highlighted concerns about changes to social services funding in Suffolk.

Optua, a Suffolk-based disability charity, said many disabled people are worried about the impact of plans to create individual budgets which will allow users to pay for their own personal homecare, respite care and activities.

The charity has called on Suffolk County Council for reassurance for disabled people about the Self Directed Support (SDS) system following concerns over lack of information and that some people might not be in a position to make informed choices about services.

The charity organised a meeting with David Pintilie, programme manager of the SDS project at Suffolk County Council, as a result of these worries, and 40 disabled people attended.

Linda Hoggarth, chairwoman of Optua, said: “The new Self Directed Support system will have a significant impact on Optua's members and the disabled people we work with.

“While we would always support any moves to give disabled people more choice and control over their lives, it was clear from the issues raised that many people are worried about how the new system will impact on them and that there has been a lack of information coming through about how it will work.

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“This will be a major change for many disabled people and many still need reassuring about how it will affect them.”

Graham Newman, Suffolk County Council's portfolio holder for the county council's adult and community services, said that every possible advice would be given to people seeking services they need within their budget.

He said: “Ultimately they can opt for the decision to be made for them as now.

"The effect of personal budgets on voluntary organisations in Suffolk will depend in part on the choices of disabled people themselves. If they continue to want those services then they will continue to be provided.

“However if they make different choices, then the provider organisations will need to respond to people's preferences. “In this respect, disabled people themselves will have more influence over purchasing decisions than at present."

Are you concerned about the changes to social care? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

Self Directed Support

Suffolk County Council plans to introduce SDS as its main approach to supporting people with long-term needs.

All customers will have an agreed amount of cash committed to them personally.

The level of cash support will be based on the customer's score on a Needs Assessment Questionnaire.

The council will offer its customers the ability to take control of all or part of this cash and use it as flexibly as they wish to meet their own needs.

The change will happen over the next three years.

SOURCE: Suffolk County Council