Charities unite in welfare plea

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WIGAN Council has been urged not to neglect the welfare of disabled and elderly people.

A group of 35 charities and organisations – including the deafblind charity Sense, Age UK, the British Red Cross and Macmillan Cancer Support – has combined to lobby council leaders as local authorities face substantial budget cuts.

In a statement addressed to the Town Hall, the charity coalition said: “Cutting back further on the care and support services for older people, disabled people and people with long-term physical and mental health conditions and their families will condemn many more to a miserable, isolated and often unsafe future.

“Many are already struggling under the strain of cuts and have been pushed into financial hardship, isolation and ill health. We are deeply concerned about the anguish caused by lack of social care – we witness the harsh reality everyday.

“We are calling on Wigan Council to find ways to protect frontline care and support services for vulnerable people from cuts.”

As part of government budget cuts to councils, Wigan’s local authority is expected to make savings of £80 million over a four year period.

Chairman of the council’s Health and Wellbeing Board, Coun Keith Cunliffe, said: “Inevitably the amount of savings we have to make is going to affect how we deliver all our services.

“However, we are committed to protecting as many of our vital frontline services, particularly those which bring dignity and quality of life to the most vulnerable people in our community.

“We are in discussion with many frontline providers and charities and consulting with service users to ensure that we target our resources in the most effective way we can.”

The charity alliance also called on residents within Wigan Borough to voice their opinions and contact the council in order to protect their social care services.

Their statement added: “Care and support services help people with basic tasks such as washing, eating and getting out of the house. These are not nice to have extras but vital for the daily life of so many people. For readers who care about the future of older people, disabled people, those with long-term health conditions and their carers and families we urge you to let your local authority know that you will not accept any further cuts to these vital services.”

Further criticism of the government’s plans has come from grass roots political movement, the Community Action Party, who have started an online petition this month calling for the welfare reforms to be scrapped. The CAP says the measures, due to come into effect in 2013, “unfairly punish sick and disabled people”.

l To see charity workers in action see pages 28-29