Services for vulnerable people in East Sussex are set for a major shake-up after council leaders agreed to a range of cost-cutting measures.
Members of the Conservative-led county council cabinet approved a programme of cuts totalling £9.6m in the adult social care budget at a meeting on Tuesday (June 26).
The full range of measures included cuts to the East Sussex Stroke Recovery and HIV Support services, which the council commissioned from The Stroke Association and The Terrence Higgins Trust respectively.
Cabinet members also approved the closures of council-run care home Firwood House in Eastbourne and a council-run day service for elderly and disabled residents at Warwick House in Seaford. Both services are to be provided from a reconfigured Milton Grange in Eastbourne.
Day services at the Charter Centre in Bexhill and the Isabel Blackman Centre in Hastings – both provided by the Sussex Community Development Association – are also to close as the council withdraws funding for these services.
Carl Maynard, lead member for adult social care and health, said: “Our responsibility as elected members is to make sure that we make the best use of the resources we have.
“The proposals in front of us are very challenging. We are making very, very difficult decisions that will affect people. Demand will continue to rise as our funding falls.
“We are all aware of our unique demographic within East Sussex that means that certain parts of adult social care are extremely focused here, because of the age of our population.”
Cllr Maynard also called on councillors to lobby their local MPs to ‘make sure government understands the gravity of the problem in adult social care’.
David Tutt, leader of the council’s Liberal Democrat group, also raised the prospect of lobbying Westminster for local government funding.
He said: “Local government is being starved of finance. Yes, it has been successive governments who have done it but we’ve got to a point now where I think we all have to ask whether local government is actually sustainable if national government continues.
“The idea that we can still provide services to the vulnerable people in our society, the vital services that our communities need and demand, is highly questionable.”
Labour leader Trevor Webb raised concerns about the impact of the cuts on council staffing. He said: “I became a councillor in 1997, following in the wake of government reorganisation where we had a loss of equity and knowledge.
“It took us at least 10 years to rebuild that knowledge and I have real concerns that this puts us in a similar position.”
Conservative council leader Keith Glazier said: “This is the least worst option. We all accept that some of the points that we’re being asked to consider today will have a detrimental effect on the people we serve.”
During the meeting cabinet members also approved plans to mitigate cuts to the East Sussex accommodation-based and community-based housing support services through a one-off £1.161m funding package from central government.
As a result the Home Works and Steps services will see a £1.212m reduction in the amount to be cut from their budgets, which had originally been set at a total of £2.5m.
After the meeting, Michelle Dalmacio, director of stroke support for the South of England at the Stroke Association said: “We are hugely disappointed that East Sussex County Council will no longer be able to fund this well used and much needed stroke recovery service.
“Stroke has a sudden and massive physical and emotional impact on people, changing their lives forever. The cut of nearly £80,000 funding means that some of these services will no longer be able to operate after October 2018. Losing these services will be a huge loss for the many vulnerable stroke survivors in East Sussex that depend on this support to rebuild their lives and help them reduce the risk of further strokes.
“There are over 150,000 stroke survivors in the South East of England and it’s very worrying that this county will no longer be able to offer the support they need to help them recover.
“The Stroke Association will be contacting local stroke survivors and their carers to explain East Sussex County Council’s decision, and offer guidance and advice in this very unsettling time.”
For more information about stroke visit www.stroke.org.uk or call the Helpline on 03 03 30 33 100.
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