A dad campaigning against the loss of a community transport service says he fears Lancashire is returning to “a Victorian type of society where disabled people are neither seen nor heard.”
Paul Taylforth, 58, started a petitition against the proposed cuts to the Day Care Transport scheme, which allows his disabled son John to get to a day centre five days a week.
But users want a rethink before Lancashire County Council make a decision February 11. They say alternatives are too vague, the cut would put “unbearable strain” on the families and carers of disabled and elderly people, to provide the service themselves.
Paul, of Accrington, said the cost of a wheelchair accessible taxi would be around £50 a day for the same journeys, plus £24 a day for an escort.
He said: “Carers and families already save society billions of pounds by the care they already provide. The transport to day centres allows them freedom for a little while and enables many to work, which would not be possible without the support of this daily transport service.
“At worst it will stop people being able to access their community completely, leave people vegetating at home and return us to a Victorian type of society where disabled people are neither seen nor heard.
We’re facing an unprecedented financial challenge caused by a combination of relentless central government cuts and rising demand for our servicesCoun Tony Martin
“Also, there are the excellent drivers, PAs and escorts who will be losing their employment. Lancashire County Council say they will protect the most vulnerable. Yet this policy flies directly in the face of that promise.”
Mr Taylforth said he only found out about the proposal by accident, having seen a Unison leaflet on the cuts.
He said: “I wanted to start the petition to get the information out there and show people where to voice their opinion, because otherwise councillors will be making a decision on February 11 without really knowing how people feel.”
Wheelchair user and Coronation Street actress Cherylee Houston has retweeted a link to the campaign.
The petition is also being supported by Preston-based Disability Equality, whose chief executive Melanie Close said she has “real fears over the future of social care support and peoples ability to live independently and safely in their community”.
Trustee John Pearson, whose severely disabled son James used the service, said any changes should be looked at on an individual basis.
He said: “James has severe and complex needs and some of his behaviours are related to autism.
“People with autism react badly to change and decisions like this shouldn’t be made by bean counting pen-pushers. Proper assessments on a case-by-case basis should be made by social services and the NHS to see whether it’s suitable to take transport away.”
County Coun Tony Martin, cabinet member for adult and community services, said: “We’re facing an unprecedented financial challenge caused by a combination of relentless central government cuts and rising demand for our services.
“Over the next four years, the council must deliver savings of £262m on top of those agreed as part of previous budget setting processes.
“This is a very difficult decision to make, but by cutting the transport service to day centres in its current form, we will save around £2.75m a year from 2017/18. We are currently considering a number of possibilities for replacing this service and we will be speaking to people that currently use day centres to discuss their transport options. If transport cannot be provided we will help them to find community operators in their area that may be able to help.
“We know people will be anxious about this and feel it’s important that they have the opportunity to have their say, so we will be running a consultation once we’ve finalised the details about the options we’re putting forward. We know some people have very specific transport requirements and we will consider these when putting together the proposals.
“By reducing budgets in this way, we can continue to fund Lancashire’s vital social care services, which help ensure people continue to live independently in their own home and reduce hospital admissions.”
View the petition at: https://www.change.org