‘David Cameron got involved and council’s attitude to care changed’

JPCT 020612 Lucinda Ritchie left and her mother Christine. Photo by Derek Martin
JPCT 020612 Lucinda Ritchie left and her mother Christine. Photo by Derek Martin

Campaigners have said that only with intervention by top MPs and the Prime Minister have some people had much-needed care provided by West Sussex County Council.

Health care practitioners and the Don’t Cut Us Out campaign speaking out for vulnerable people in West Sussex claim that the county council’s West Sussex County Council to paint a glowing picture of social care are ‘misleading and false’.

DCUO chairman Margaret Guest, formerly a senior care manager at WSCC, said: “We are coming across case after case where the cuts in care are having a terrible impact on people least able to cope.

“Far from ‘increasing customer care and control’ as the council suggests in their press release, care practitioners across the county are experiencing the exact opposite, and it takes a huge campaign involving media headlines, and interventions from MPs, and even the Prime Minister, before council leaders take notice.”

The council’s own rating of its care performance contradicts a recent Survey Report on Social Care published by West Sussex LINk which highlighted tough situations now faced by hundreds of disabled and elderly people who have lost support since the council cut millions of pounds from its Adult Care budget in April 2011.

One of those is Lucinda Ritchie, 20, of Badgers Close, Horsham, who suffers from Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.

Her battle began in May when she applied to WSCC for care support at university. However, despite coverage in the County Times and on television, she only heard the council’s decision in late September.

Her mother Christine said: “WSCC offered us a derisory £122.70 a week to provide Lucinda with £1,000 a week 24-hour care support she needed.”

But then Lucinda suffered the fall family had predicted. She fell while trying to transfer unaided from her wheelchair, dislocating her leg and arm and spent seven weeks in hospital having a series of operations. Meanwhile Horsham MP Francis Maude took up her case and PM David Cameron referred it to Department for Community and Local Government.

Mrs Ritchie said: “Lucinda was in enormous pain, and has since lost all feeling in her legs, but the incident helped politicians to bang heads. It was only once David Cameron and Francis Maude became involved, that the council’s attitude towards Lucinda changed rapidly, and I am pleased to say that the council is now funding 24 hour care support for our daughter.”

See the council’s full statement below.

West Sussex County Council has defended its work to cut costs by reviewing care packages amid criticism from campaign group.

A spokesman said: “It is a fact that WSCC and its partners in the local NHS have been rated as the best in the south east in how they look after the health of people with learning disabilities.

“The independent report from NHS South of England East called ‘Learning Disabilities Health Self Assessment Framework’, showed West Sussex was shown to have met almost all targets ‘very well’ in terms of meeting the health needs of people with learning disabilities.

“The county council believes that its changes to the eligibility criteria for social care have been handled with care and sensitivity.

“It is interesting that DCUO has ignored another press release in which we announced how the county council’s three political group leaders have come together to back a campaign calling for more funding for adult social care.

“This stated that research by the Local Government Association (LGA) has shown that the rising cost of providing care and support to a growing ageing population, combined with the increasing cost of delivering other statutory responsibilities like social services and concessionary travel, will soak up almost all of council spending.

“It warns that by 2020 the money available to fund council services like road maintenance and libraries will have shrunk by 90 per cent in cash terms.”

In West Sussex, core funding from Government has been cut by 23 per cent from £141.2m in 2010/11 to £108.7m in the current year. Therefore the county council is supporting the LGA’s ‘Show Us You Care’ campaign urging residents to write to their MP demanding change. Suggested text can be found on the council’s website.

Leader of the council Louise Goldsmith said: “This is too important for party politics, which is why we are coming together in an all-party fashion to urge the Government to inject some money into adult social care to ensure we can still provide some of our most popular services across the county.”

“We do not think it fair or proper to comment on the individual cases that DCUO has listed in its statement. However the case studies put forward are partial and selective in portraying the circumstances of the individuals concerned.