Fears for the most vulnerable in Peterborough as council funding is slashed

Fears for the most vulnerable people in Peterborough have been raised after proposals to slash funding for charities, healthcare, the disabled, the elderly, youths and socially deprived adults were unveiled by Peterborough City Council.

Friday, 25th October 2019, 6:00 pm
Staff a Disability Peterborough

The cash-strapped authority is seeking to make millions of pounds of savings by scaling back its support to a number of organisations in the city, while forcing community groups to take over the responsibilities.

The council today (Friday) unveiled proposals to tackle a £33 million deficit in next year’s budget following huge cuts to it government funding, with measures including large reductions across the board.

The proposals only tackle £24 million of that deficit, with further proposals to come in the new year.

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Among the measures announced were large cuts to support for the elderly, disabled, the isolated and adults struggling with financial hardship.

Youth services are also being cut, as is support for those in care.

The council said it will support groups to find alternative funding and that the community will be ‘empowered’ to take on the running of the services.

It stressed that it can only afford to fund essential services due its loss of government support.

However, leader of the council’s Labour group Cllr Shaz Nawaz argued: “Deserving organisations that make a massive contribution to the people of Peterborough are now going to face financial hardship.”

One of the charities facing huge losses to its funding is Age UK Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

Its chief executive Melanie Wicklen said: “The decision to reduce the funds to the voluntary sector will result in greater pressure on local authority services and will likely result in older people reaching preventable crisis situations sooner.”

She added that the charity was “extremely disappointed to learn of proposed cuts in local authority funding, in a climate which sees increasing demand and requests for support for our local population.

“Our services not only offer a trusted, reliable and time neutral support network, they provide a clear cost saving to the local authority, reducing the need for more intense and expensive statutory interventions.”

Defending the cuts, council leader Cllr John Holdich said: “Historically people have come to the council for help and support around all manner of subjects, often to provide services which could and should be provided elsewhere.

“We want to get away from that and support others to provide services independently of the council - people who know their community and its needs better than us - instead of the council and its taxpayers picking up the bill.

“We know that there are really good examples of this happening in our community already with community groups running activities for young people, litter picks and clubs for older people, and many of the proposals look to further that.

“In turn this will allow us to fund the statutory services that we have no choice over providing and should be providing - supporting children in care, providing homes for the homeless and keeping the elderly safe.”

But Cllr Nawaz added: “One of the most worrying and savage cuts is to the youth budget. An eviscerating £516,000. Early intervention and support is proven to help reducing re-offending. We are supposed to help and support the youths. The administration doesn’t seem to understand this.

“Ferocious cuts are being proposed because the Conservatives have failed to make adequate changes year on year. They knew about the future budget gaps years ago. They ignored the facts, sold off key assets to plug gaps and failed to plan for the day when there are no more assets to sell.

“Their complete lack of forward thinking means that they are now faced with the current crippling proposals which could have been avoided with small sensible changes in preceding years.

“The administration is a brilliant example of incompetence coupled with how never to run a council. I feel sorry for everyone who will suffer as a direct result of austerity and mismanagement.”

Full measures of changes

. Care package reviews and assessments - £1.7m saving a year

Care and support commissioned by the council is currently reviewed every 12 months but will now be reviewed more frequently, which is expected to lead to savings.

. Revised funding for Peterborough Community Assistance Scheme - £418,000 saving in year one, followed by £473,000 a year annually

The Peterborough Community Assistance Scheme (PCAS) helps people going through unexpected financial difficulties. The following services will now see budget cuts:

. KingsGate Community Church in Staplee Way which works with volunteers to provide food banks across the city and runs Care Zone, which provides furniture and white goods.

. The Rainbow Saver Anglia in Cattle Market Road, which provides bank accounts to people with poor credit who could not access one on the high street. The council said banks now offer accounts to people with poor credit.

. Disability Peterborough, which provides benefit claims advice for people with physical disabilities. The council said that support can be found elsewhere.

. Age UK, which runs a number of services for the council.

. The Citizens’ Advice Bureau in St Mark’s Street, which helps people at risk of homelessness, people in debt, the unemployed and people suffering breakdowns.

Revised low level support for older people discharged from hospital - £45k a year saving

The council has been funding both Age UK and the British Red Cross to offer advice and support to older people when they are discharged from hospital.

Funding will now be cut from Age UK.

Healthy Child Programme - £541,000 a year saving

The provider of the programme, the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust (CPFT), will carry out a review of contract costs, including for staff.

Hearing screenings for children entering school will be stopped as it is no longer a national requirement.

Open access child health promotion clinics will be cut from 12 to six with parents provided “baby self-weigh facilities” and improved “availability of local web-based and digital information on child health”.

Integrated Lifestyle Services - £80k a year saving in year one, then £100k a year

The services help people to reduce their risk of illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

Peterborough City Council and Cambridgeshire County Council will now commission these services jointly which is expected to deliver savings.

Reablement flats - One off £70k saving

The council contracts the use of a number of reablement flats across the city which support people to regain their independence following a stay in hospital. The council is looking to stop using one of the flats at Lapwing Court in Orton Brimbles, which is owned by Cross Keys Homes, as it says it is no longer needed.

LifeLine - £57k a year saving in year one then £124k a year

LifeLine is a personal alarm system which is currently free for everyone. It is often used by the most frail. The council will start charging new users to use the service after six weeks.

This will be means-tested with the most anyone pays being £4.50 a week.

Stay Well in Winter campaign - £50k a year saving

Winter fuel payments of £50,000 a year to the most vulnerable will be stopped with people instead referred to places such as Age UK which can advise where to source financial support.

Extra care contract - £47k saving in year one, then £71k a year

The contract provides support and help to people who are socially isolated, such as through phone calls.

Instead, the council says it will “look to support the recruitment of a bank of volunteers in the community” before training them to provide support to those who are socially isolated.

Children’s centre contracts - £100k saving in year one, then £200k a year

In Peterborough, Spurgeons and Barnardo’s currently run the city’s children’s centres. Those contracts will be re-tendered alongside centres in the south of Fenland to create savings.

Youth services - £516,000 a year saving

A targeted youth service which focuses on the most vulnerable teenagers in the city is said to have helped see a 30 per cent reduction in the number of young people being taken into care.

Non-statutory (essential) youth services will now be cut, such as one to one support and support for running activities and clubs in the community, on top of a reduced drop-in service for young people who are not in education, employment or training.

The council said: “Going forward, services will be further targeted at those young people who are particularly vulnerable, with a continued focus on stopping problems becoming a crisis and managing risks to young people within their communities.”

A series of articles on the budget proposals will be published online at https://www.peterboroughtoday.co.uk/news/politics from 5pm today (Friday) and over the weekend.

Residents can have their say on the budget proposals either at www.peterborough.gov.uk/budget, or by picking up a hard copy of the budget from the Town Hall in Bridge Street or at any city library from Monday.