Byline: Sarah Richardson
[bar] OME councils are making cuts to disabled people's services without knowledge of the number or needs of people in their area, according to research published by a leading thinktank.
Funded by disability charity Scope, the research by Demos describes the role that councils can play if they want to protect frontline services.
The research, displayed in an interactive map of England and Wales, uncovers budget decisions made by the 152 councils in England and 22 councils in Wales with responsibility for social care.
For the first time it ranks them on the impact these budget changes will have on the lives of disabled people -- scoring councils on how well they are "coping".
Some councils, including Hammersmith & Fulham and Rutland, are reported to have made "very high" budget cuts but score "well" on the coping scale. Despite increasing their budgets, Gloucestershire and North East Lincolnshire score "badly" on the coping scale.
Many councils which introduced the same degree of budget cut scored vastly differently on the coping scale, demonstrating that councils have the ability to introduce measures that can reduce the negative impact on their disabled residents.
Coping scores were mixed across regions, rural and urban areas with some of the most deprived council areas ranking highly in the league table.
This suggests that councils' strategies to deal with budget cuts can go a long way towards mitigating the negative effect on disabled people. Councils ranking at the top of the "coping" index share common characteristics.
In the face of budget cuts they have introduced creative steps to reduce the negative impact on disabled residents such as promoting co-production -- involving disabled people in decisionmaking processes to design and plan services; committing to personalisation -- introducing services that promote individual and tailored support for disabled people; promoting community-based support -- rather than formal segregated services for disabled people; and moving towards more integrated services that incorporate care, health, housing and leisure.
According to Claudia Wood, the report's author, it's a scandal that "social care authorities are making cuts without an accurate grasp of the number and needs of their disabled populations".
"Decisions on the frontline of disability services will make or break disabled people's lives," she says. "It's not enough for councils to blame cuts from central government -- our research clearly shows that there are best practices at a local level that can make the difference.
"It's not just about the amount you have to spend, but how you spend it. Some local authorities are really innovating in an effort to protect disability services -- even improve them -- with a lot less money.
"Our new coping index goes beyond the top-line funding settlement and looks at what this is doing to disability services -- such as increasing service charges and restricting eligibility. …