Losing care hours means losing friends for Susie

Susie Rowbottom, whose social care has been cut to 2 hours a week, with her mum Kate Rowbottom
Susie Rowbottom, whose social care has been cut to 2 hours a week, with her mum Kate Rowbottom

A ROFFEY woman with Down’s syndrome has spoken out nationally about her social care being cut to just two hours a week.

Susie Rowbottom, 41, who has now lost contact with friends as a result of losing ten hours of care, is one of thousands of disabled people who have fallen victim to West Sussex County Council’s cuts.

She featured on a BBC news programme last week explaining how her 12 hours of one-to-one care support from a social care worker and time in day centres has been dropped to one afternoon in Horsham Library.

Susie used to go to the Strawford Centre in Horsham’s Blatchford Road, a council-run facility for people with learning difficulties and disabilities, where she made friends, but now she rarely sees them.

“I see one or two of my friends outside Strawford but I miss them all,” Susie told the County Times. “I miss the sewing and cooking and I had one special friend there, Stella, who I really miss.

“I miss the cooking at home too,” she added.

Her mother, Kate Rowbottom, also secretary of the Friends of Strawford, has been fighting the cause for her daughter.

She said: “Twelve hours down to two is ludicrious. Due to her Down’s syndrome, Susie should not be left at home with so little care. She goes to a drop-in on a Tuesday afternoon, but the two hours [of care] consists of being picked up at the supermarket and being dropped off.

“She used to go to the Strawford Centre, but that was stopped and the ones who really benefit from the sewing, cooking and other activities are now out in the community in church halls, which have to be hired at extra cost. Susie went to the Horizon group once a week and she has been told she can’t go to that.”

Kate continued: “I have fought and fought, but they just keep saying they need to save money. I know the council has money in reserves.

“I don’t know exactly how much they have put away, but it’s well into the millions.

“Vulnerable people are paying for this money being in reserves.”

She added that because of her disability, Susie has the mental age of about ten and therefore needs daily support.

Barry Pickthall from the Don’t Cut Us Out Campaign said this is all too common.

“Susie’s case epitomises our worst fears for WSCC’s cuts in vital care support both for the disabled and elderly.

“She had been attending a day centre for 20 years which had become the focus for her life.

“Now she has lost regular contact with all her friends and now has nothing to motivate or stimulate her.”

A spokesman for WSCC said: “We can confirm that Susie Rowbottom is receiving the right level of support to meet her care needs.

“She is active in the community and coping well with a greater level of independence in a supported living setting.”

The spokesman added that Mrs Rowbottom has ‘exhausted the appeals process’ and the local government ombudsman had ‘ruled in the council’s favour’.

However Mrs Rowbottom told this newspaper the ombudsman did not look into Susie’s care needs.

“The ombudsman said WSCC hadn’t broken the law. It wasn’t about whether Susie had the right support or not.”