Bristol: Stop the proposed “Fair and Affordable Care” policy

Open Letter sent from disability organisations

27 November 2023 (signatories updated 31 January

To: Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol mayor@bristol.gov.uk

Cllr Helen Holland, Cabinet member, Adult Social Care cllr.helen.holland@bristol.gov.uk

Council officers: Mette.Jakobsen@bristol.gov.uk    James.Mahood@bristol.gov.uk    Hugh.Evans@bristol.gov.uk

Emma Edwards, leader of the Green Group   Cllr.Emma.Edwards@bristol.gov.uk

Cllr Jos Clark – leader of the Lib Dem Group  cllr.jos.clark@bristol.gov.uk

OPEN LETTER

Stop the proposed “Fair and Affordable Care” policy

We oppose any cuts to social care which undermine disabled people’s survival; which threaten disabled/older people’s choice of where and how to live; and any increase in people being institutionalised.  We support the right to free homecare as in Labour council Hammersmith and Fulham since 2015.

Disabled/older people who managed to survive COVID are facing the cost of living crisis on top of extra costs of disability and government threats to our disability benefits.  It is harder to qualify for council support, yet many people in need have dropped out of getting homecare because the homecare charges are unaffordable. 

It is already discriminatory that those of us with the highest needs are charged the most for homecare because we need more hours of support – charges taken from our disability benefits. 

And now, those of us who are getting these scarce services face the threat of being put in residential homes if we have high needs when we want to stay in our own homes. Especially as COVID deaths were highest in care homes, fear of being institutionalised will cause people with high needs to drop out, leading to living in squalid conditions, relying on casual acquaintances who may turn abusive, and hastening deaths.  Others who cannot survive without support will have decisions made over our head or have no choice, which is abusive.

Severely disabled mothers fear being separated from our children if the council decides that the support we need is too expensive and the cheaper option is for us to be put in a care home, and for our children to be fostered or adopted.  Already, disabled mothers face disability discrimination whereby we are denied Care Act support to look after our children, and disproportionately have our children taken away (Channel 5 News)  

Those of us from communities of colour suffer harsh health inequality due
to poverty, deprivation, denial of medical treatment due to immigration
status or fear of having children taken, discriminatory medical treatment which harms our health, and language barriers, so we are more susceptible to ill-health and disability within the community.  More people have high support needs.  Most often we can’t afford to pay privately for carers, so rely more on social care services and would be disproportionately affected by this policy.

We can’t let another council flout the expressed needs, welfare and wishes of disabled/older residents, as some of us have seen with higher charging policies railroaded through despite real hardship.  The proposals which the council is consulting on, are also contrary to the long-established policy of independent living in the UK.

In the first year during COVID when social care was deprioritised, at least 25,000 more people on the homecare register died than usual — mostly NOT of COVID, but of thirst and other causes linked to neglect. In Bristol City, there was a 55% increase in deaths, 148 non-COVID to 17 COVID, compared to 106 non-COVID in 2019.

Further cuts to social care deepen this crisis.  Many people would prefer to struggle in their own home without enough support, but at least have their autonomy, than be put in institutions, where neglect and malicious abuse are endemic.

We urge the Mayor and councillors not to vote through these cuts to social care, but to seek support from the community to demand increased central government grant.

Signed:

Action Disability Kensington and Chelsea

Adult Social Care Warriors

Bristol Reclaiming Independent Living

Difference North East

Disability Rights UK

Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People

Harrow Association of Disabled People (HAD)

ILG Community (Independent Living Group)

Inclusion London

Liberation

Surrey Coalition of Disabled People

WinVisible (women with visible & invisible disabilities) / Disabled Mothers’ Rights      Campaign


Consultation is here, open till 31 January 2024: https://www.ask.bristol.gov.uk/fair-and-affordable-care-policy-consultation

BBC News: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/disability-66888121

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