Council cuts could harm vulnerable people in West Sussex

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Vulnerable people living in West Sussex could be left without vital support if planned cuts go ahead.

The proposed cuts are part of West Sussex County Council’s plans to save £72m in three years, following a drop in a government grant, and will effect those in the moderate category.

Clients who use the Aldingbourne Trust Country Centre, Blackmill Lane, Norton, are worried vital services they rely on could be stopped.

Bognor Regis resident, Andrew Pickthall, 32, has been going to the centre since he was 18, and is worried the cuts will mean he will no longer be able to.

He said: “I have a learning difficulty and receive funding from West Sussex to help me do things.

“The council spending review makes me feel cross and worried because the cuts mean I might not be able to do things that are really important to me anymore.

“I would have to stay at home every day and would be bored and lonely. I’d like to get a job but it’s hard for people with learning difficulties to get jobs.”

At the centre, Mr Pickthall has the opportunity to do different activities and learn new skills.

“They have helped me get part time jobs – like as a photographer at the Festival of Speed. I really want the cuts to stop so that I can keep coming here, and so that other people can come here too,” he said.

More than 1,000 disabled people from West Sussex are expected to protest against the cuts, with protesters planning to line the corridors of Chichester County Hall on March 1.

Evelyn Rhodes, of Irvine Road, Littlehampton, whose daughter Gillian, 45, resides in an independent living establishment in Bognor is concerned she could end up needing 24-hour care.

She said: “She will regress without that help and support. Last time she tried to make it on her own, she ended up in a mental health hospital for three months.

“I am in my 70s, and can’t keep on watching her forever.”

Gillian relies on the trust who give her one or two hours’ of help every day, with cooking, shopping and managing her money. The council has said if the changes went ahead, everyone in the moderate band would be reassessed before funding was cut.

Mrs Rhodes said: “People with learning difficulties are very good at masking their disability. If you saw Gillian in the street, you would think she was no different to anyone else. It’s when you get down to asking what she thinks, she cannot make decisions or think for herself.”

A county council spokeswoman said because the organisation had to make savings it had to target funding to people with the greatest needs. She said: “The council will be working with voluntary and community organisations to find different ways of supporting individuals who are no longer eligible for funded social care, and £1m of funding will be invested into this.”

The proposals will go to the adults’ services select committee on March 1, and a final decision will be taken, by the cabinet member for adults’ service, Peter Catchpole.