Fears support for Peterborough’s disabled going backwards as charities ‘pitted against each other for funding’

Peterborough charities have warned they are being forced to compete with each other for a shrinking pool of money while support for the disabled going backwards.

Sunday, 20th October 2019, 7:00 am
Jane Baillie, Pat Foeniger, Sarah Pilbeam and Julie Fernandez at Disability Peterboroughs office

Funding cuts will mean important support services are scaled back and the most vulnerable will end up missing out, they are claiming.

The stark warning comes a fortnight after the PT revealed that Shopmobility, which provides wheelchairs and scooters for disabled shoppers in the city centre, is to have its £14,000 funding cut from the city council.

The scheme is run from Queensgate by Disability Peterborough which has claimed that the council’s latest budget proposals, which are released a week tomorrow, will see its funding completely wiped out.

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This is said to include around £100,000 for an information, advice and guidance service which helps disabled people apply for benefits support they are entitled to, although the contract is expected to go out to tender.

Other cuts are believed to include more than £32,000 for the Disability Forum - which holds regular meetings between disabled people and businesses/statutory bodies - and £10,000 for a benefits adviser for disabled children.

Julie Fernandez, project development manager at Disability Peterborough, said: “Governments are relying more and more on charities like us to do work they should be doing but are not supporting us financially.

“We have traditionally supported between 2,000 to 3,000 disabled people in Peterborough and their families. This saves the council £2.2 million a year because if the forms are filled in correctly the money comes from the Department for Work and Pensions.

“The cutbacks are going to mean people in Peterborough with disabilities who desperately need support so they can get benefits they are entitled to will not get them.

“So disabled people will not get the care they need and will become more impoverished. How will they get out of bed or have breakfast if they are not getting the money to get carers? They’re going to struggle to pay for housing, heating and clothes.

“But we at Disability Peterborough are adamant we are going to carry on. We are working on accessing funding from foundations, grants and lotteries. We’re also building relationships with local businesses.”

The charity was also forced earlier this year to close its Inspire Peterborough project - which was set up in 2013 after the London Games - after receiving no more funding from Sport England.

This led to the closure of the gym in Amilly House, Stanground, which had been used by, among others, disabled veterans, as well as the loss of sporting and leisure activities.

The council said it offers a range of services for children and adults, including offers of short breaks to provide respite, grants to adapt homes, speech and language and sensory support, and support with skills development, work opportunities and maintaining health and wellbeing.

Cllr Irene Walsh, cabinet member for community services, said: “With a cut in our government funding of 80 per cent since 2010 and unprecedented rises in demand for services, we are undoubtedly having to look at all the funding we allocate to organisations to provide services on our behalf to see whether they are still needed and providing best value.

“There are a number of cases where we have stopped, or are proposing to stop, providing funding in certain areas, but in most cases this is where we know that other services are available.

“We consider the needs of disabled people when making decisions across all our departments and provide many services for this section of our community.”