Political background of Wiltshire cuts

In last week’s piece, I looked at the influence of the Wiltshire and Swindon Users Involvement Network on my attitude to service user involvement, its effects on our local service user groups and my personal reaction to the news that its funding had been drastically cut. This week I want to discuss the political background.

One of the most important factors in the success of disabled people’s involvement in Wiltshire – it’s not hard to work it out – was the political backing from their director of social services, Ray Jones, who has been a prominent advocate for disabled rights for some time.

This substantial commitment to service user involvement must have had the backing of his counterparts in the local primary care trusts and their predecessors. That political vision made the funding available, which enabled the organisation to flourish.

Unfortunately, because this was a political decision and not a statutory duty, this kind of investment will always be vulnerable when budgets need to be cut.

Which is exactly what has happened: deficits in the PCTs’ budgets have had a knock-on effect on shared projects, which have led to cuts – without consultation – threatening the Wiltshire and Swindon Users Involvement Network.

Many PCTs have similar budgetary crises, so many other service user organisations could be under threat in the near future.

According to the government document Improving Life Chances for Disabled People this is a time when disabled people – particularly those who need help with daily living – should be less excluded and more empowered. Odd timing then, to destroy, in effect, one of the flagship disability organisations. I wonder how the Prime Minister’s Office for Disability Issues views this cutback? Perhaps someone should ask it for a response.

Given that all public bodies will soon have a duty to promote disability equality I wonder whether the Wiltshire and Swindon Users Involvement Network is considering a legal challenge to its local authorities and PCTs, on the basis that they are failing in this duty?

Further information
Wiltshire and Swindon Users Involvement Network

More from Community Care

Comments are closed.