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How cutting ‘non-essential services’ can be devastating for people

Failing to cut a public hedge may have meant financial savings to Blair Mcpherson’s local council, but to an older couple in his road it meant social isolation. Many people’s quality of life would have been harmed by the substantial cuts to ‘non-essential services we have seen in recent years, he says.

Hedge cutting Monkey Business Images Rex Features.jpg
To the side of my house is a row of bungalows. An old man and his frail old wife sit looking out of the window from the early morning till it gets too dark to see. They wave at me when I pass taking the dogs out for their walk. They wave at the mums and toddlers on their way to and from the play group. They wave to the postman who always waves back. They watch the comings and goings throughout the day. They watch the horses in the field opposite. The old man told me his wife can’t get out the house much but she doesn’t feel so isolated when she looks out of the window. 

My wife and I haven’t seen them for weeks even though we walk the dogs twice a day. They are still there we just can’t see them and they can’t see us or anyone else. There is a big hedge running along the public footpath and over the summer it has grown so tall we can’t see over it and the old man and his wife can’t see us or anyone else. 

Low priority 

In previous years the council has been around to cut the hedge but budget cuts mean low priority jobs don’t get done. This made me think of the time I cut the grant to the voluntary group that organised gardening and decorating for elderly and disabled people. I was immune to the group’s argument that an overgrown garden or a shabby living room was a depressing environment for someone who was housebound. I had the bigger picture and cutting this and other groups money would enable us to continue to fund luncheon clubs and meals on wheels which were considered more essential. 

Home help cuts

The following year there was a similar debate when we stopped home helps doing house hold cleaning so we could focus on funding them to wash, dress and feed. And so it has gone on each year cuts have been made to non essential service the small things like a clean house, a tidy garden, a fresh coat of paint in the living room or an unobstructed view of the outside world, things that affect your mood and your quality of live but are not essential.

Rushed care visits 

Now of course most local authorities’ budgets won’t stretch to anything other than washing, toileting and feeding. The home carer rushes in gets the person out of bed, sits them on the toilet, passes them their tablets and gives them a sandwich and cup of tea before a quick wipe with a flannel. No time for pleasantries this visit been reduced to a 20 minute “pop in”.
This morning I awoke to the buzz of hedge trimmers. I walked the dogs and waved to the old man and woman and they waved back. 

Well done local council.  

Blair McPherson was formerly a social worker and director of community services at Lancashire Council. He now writes about management, equality and diversity.

Picture credit: Monkey Business Images/Rex Features

Mithran Samuel

About Mithran Samuel

Mithran Samuel is adults' editor at Community Care.

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