City council's savage cuts threaten some of Southampton's most vulnerable people

Liz Chapman’s son Robert is one of the vulnerable people set to lose out in the adult social care cuts

Liz Chapman’s son Robert is one of the vulnerable people set to lose out in the adult social care cuts

First published in Politics
Last updated
Daily Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Deputy News Editor

THEY are some of the most vulnerable residents of Southampton whose families have chosen to devote their lives to care for them.

A total of 91 households in the city have at least one adult who suffers from severe learning difficulties and in many cases wide-ranging disabilities.

Every one of them requires specialist care. Many struggle to read and speak, they cannot be left home alone or venture out unaccompanied, and only day centres, groups and occasional respite breaks provide an essential lifeline for them and their relatives.

But today the Daily Echo can reveal how the most needy have found themselves at the heart of a savage round of funding cuts.

Adult social care bosses at Southampton City Council are axing ‘rent allowances’ which have been paid to each service user at an average rate of £40 a week for years.

They say the funding cuts are to bring the council in line with ‘national guidance’ – but they believe they should never have been making the payments in the first place as it means one group of social care customers have historically been receiving more money than others in the city.

But council chiefs are not able to say who implemented the payments, when they began and how much money they have spent.

The allowance cuts are one of 22 money-saving changes about to be implemented which will also see drastic hikes in how much people pay for day care at home.

Care services are currently used by 2,300 people in the city and the price hikes are predicted to impact on more than 700, mainly elderly, people over the next two years.

The changes will mean the council can save £563,400, of which £135,400 has been sidelined as ‘income’ as the council faces the worst cuts in its history and slices £16m from its budget.

Other cash will be put aside for a hardship fund for those struggling financially and to deal with bad debt.

The plans have provoked outrage and concern from service users and families who have branded the council consultation “a sham”.

Among them is mum Liz Chapman, 55, who has spent the past 24 years caring for her son Robert, who needs 24-hour care, has an intellectual age of four, is incontinent and has autistic tendencies. She only found out about the removal of his rent allowance in a letter “filled with jargon nobody with a degree could understand” that was sent to her son, who cannot even read – and said the consultation has been nothing but a shambles.

She said parents like her were already saving the council thousands of pounds every year by continuing to provide care at home rather than putting more people and more pressure into the system – something she as a mum would never contemplate.

The plan to slash funding and hike charges has also incensed opposition councillors who have called in the decision agreed by Cabinet last month to be reviewed tomorrow night in a last-ditch attempt to have it halted – or even put on ice for the next 12 months.

Cllr Jeremy Moulton, deputy Tory leader and chairman of the council’s scrutiny panel, said there had been “insufficient time” to examine the detail before the decision was made; neither Cabinet member Councillor Matt Stevens, who is responsible for adult services, nor council leader Richard Williams attended the hearing so they could be quizzed, and he felt there was a lack of understanding of the detail of the charging increases.

He said: “This has happened far too quickly and I want the decision to be stopped or at least looked at again.

“My worry is that in an attempt to introduce a new policy they are, through the back door, hiking up charges purely to raise money. The council has said it wants to support the most vulnerable but now they are targeting them instead. That cannot be right.”

Cllr Stevens said he wasn’t surprised that the decision had been called in – but he refuted claims that the consultation wasn’t good enough, saying the council had gone to great lengths using different mediums to ensure that the message reached service users.

Speaking about the rent allowances being scrapped, he said: “They were given more than others who receive social care and that can’t be seen as fair and it goes against national guidance.

There have been people receiving this money for years and we don’t know why it happened.”

He was unable to say when the payments began but said it had not been picked up during a review carried out in 2008 – and had only been spotted now because they delved “in depth” into the finances while faced with the city’s worst ever cuts.

He added: “We absolutely know that family carers are key and we will be taking individual circumstances into account, looking at individuals’ income and what they can afford.”

He said that charges may be waived or reviewed in “exceptional circumstances”.

The alternative, he says, is that services would have to be reduced and the council might consider only providing social care to those deemed as “critical”.

The matter will be debated by ten city councillors on the scrutiny committee tomorrow.

‘We’re on the breadline even with the allowance’

IT sucks the breath out of you.

That’s how Liz Chapman describes the constant fight she has endured for almost a quarter of a century, trying to get her son Robert the help and support he needs.

Now 24, he was born with complex learning difficulties that only became evident as he grew up
– but from the very early days Liz knew something was wrong.

“It was a mother’s instinct and for the first five years of his life I disliked him – I was struggling to bond and I knew something was wrong but nobody else could see it.

“I have lived with stress since Robert was born.

“It’s difficult to explain but when you have adrenaline running through you, you shake – and I have lived with those shakes every day of his life, but now there is nothing more rewarding and Robert has taught me so much.”

Robert needs 24-hour care. He has restricted speech, walks “like a puppet and falls over”, has an intellectual age of four and has autistic tendencies which mean he sometimes can attack, kick, bite and spit.

He has carers and he visits day centres four times a week which are chosen by Liz according to his needs and paid for through the personalised budget Robert receives.

The £40 rent allowance he has also been paid for, as long as Liz can remember, goes towards his cost of living, which she describes as “already on the breadline”.

The family mainly eat pasta and potatoes and can rarely afford luxuries such as meat, while Robert will occasionally be rewarded with £2 to spend at a charity shop because he loves to go shopping.

Liz, who describes how she has been “spinning plates” all her life, said: “Robert loves to go shopping and if they take this money away then little pleasures like that will stop.”

Since the news that rent allowances will be scrapped, Liz has had to find a part-time job that
allows her to work through the night three times a week as a carer going from home to home.

At home, Robert will be cared for by his stepdad Karl during those nights before he then spends the day working as an employment tutor and Liz takes up her caring duties at home again.

She said: “The quality of life with that £40 rent allowance is already borderline and now they want to take it away.

“I don’t have a choice and Robert doesn’t have a choice. His voice would not be heard let alone
understood – that is my job – and it makes you quite angry.”

Comments (10)

Please log in to enable comment sorting

11:41am Mon 18 Feb 13

ohec says...

As i understand it they are getting £40 more than somebody who lives elsewhere if that is the case then i find it hard to justify,everybody is or will be suffering soon as Cameron keeps on with his cuts cuts cuts campaign which we all know simply isn't working. The councils are in the same position as everybody else, and you can't spend what you haven't got, so cuts have to be made and i am afraid that there will be many unpopular cuts especially in welfare payments as people are reassessed and many quite rightly will lose out, like motability cars for example if you look at the criteria to get the higher rate you have to be half dead so as we all know that is not the case so many will lose the higher rate. The system has been abused and mismanaged for years but to take something away from somebody is never going to be easy.
As i understand it they are getting £40 more than somebody who lives elsewhere if that is the case then i find it hard to justify,everybody is or will be suffering soon as Cameron keeps on with his cuts cuts cuts campaign which we all know simply isn't working. The councils are in the same position as everybody else, and you can't spend what you haven't got, so cuts have to be made and i am afraid that there will be many unpopular cuts especially in welfare payments as people are reassessed and many quite rightly will lose out, like motability cars for example if you look at the criteria to get the higher rate you have to be half dead so as we all know that is not the case so many will lose the higher rate. The system has been abused and mismanaged for years but to take something away from somebody is never going to be easy. ohec
  • Score: 0

11:59am Mon 18 Feb 13

J.P.M says...

Perhaps Mrs MGRA can help us to reconcile this story?
Sounds like a leftover from the great thatcher years of disrespect for deserving humans.
Perhaps Mrs MGRA can help us to reconcile this story? Sounds like a leftover from the great thatcher years of disrespect for deserving humans. J.P.M
  • Score: 0

12:47pm Mon 18 Feb 13

Yorkyboy22 says...

We are all in it together aren't we Dave and Nick. I well remember how the disabled and the poor brought about the banking crisis with their feckless greed. I get very angry when I see the most vulnerable paying the price of this government's cuts. I hope the people of Eastleigh remember this when they vote. Anybody but the Torys or their LibDum pals!!
We are all in it together aren't we Dave and Nick. I well remember how the disabled and the poor brought about the banking crisis with their feckless greed. I get very angry when I see the most vulnerable paying the price of this government's cuts. I hope the people of Eastleigh remember this when they vote. Anybody but the Torys or their LibDum pals!! Yorkyboy22
  • Score: 0

2:52pm Mon 18 Feb 13

aldermoorboy says...

Poor that Labour leaders did not attend the meeting, shows disrespect for the people of this city.
Poor that Labour leaders did not attend the meeting, shows disrespect for the people of this city. aldermoorboy
  • Score: 0

3:42pm Mon 18 Feb 13

bazzeroz says...

And, what about the 'Bedroom Tax'. The 'bedroom tax' is doomed to fail. Where are the houses/properties to assist downsizing? According to some figures there are about 600,000 tenants that are 'over housed' by at least one bedroom and on housing benefit. This new law comes into effect on April 1st so there will no doubt, be thousands of tenants that will rush to exchange/downsize to save the penalty of lost benefits. After that once again the question: where are the houses/properties for the remainder of tenants that want to move? They are then caught in a catch 22 situation due to, no fault of their own and, losing benefit. The government say how much a person can claim to live on and then take back some and leave them poorer than what the law says is enough to live on......... Madness!!
And, what about the 'Bedroom Tax'. The 'bedroom tax' is doomed to fail. Where are the houses/properties to assist downsizing? According to some figures there are about 600,000 tenants that are 'over housed' by at least one bedroom and on housing benefit. This new law comes into effect on April 1st so there will no doubt, be thousands of tenants that will rush to exchange/downsize to save the penalty of lost benefits. After that once again the question: where are the houses/properties for the remainder of tenants that want to move? They are then caught in a catch 22 situation due to, no fault of their own and, losing benefit. The government say how much a person can claim to live on and then take back some and leave them poorer than what the law says is enough to live on......... Madness!! bazzeroz
  • Score: 0

3:52pm Mon 18 Feb 13

aldermoorboy says...

Good news there is no such thing as a bedroom tax, just a Labour fantasy.
Good news there is no such thing as a bedroom tax, just a Labour fantasy. aldermoorboy
  • Score: 0

5:07pm Mon 18 Feb 13

freefinker says...

aldermoorboy wrote:
Good news there is no such thing as a bedroom tax, just a Labour fantasy.
.. no, a southy fantasy.

Remember, he told the Bedroom Tax 'will be the first real major change to the Council tax'.
[quote][p][bold]aldermoorboy[/bold] wrote: Good news there is no such thing as a bedroom tax, just a Labour fantasy.[/p][/quote].. no, a southy fantasy. Remember, he told the Bedroom Tax 'will be the first real major change to the Council tax'. freefinker
  • Score: 0

5:45pm Mon 18 Feb 13

loosehead says...

Right this is the council not the Government doing this so let's get that right.
Did this start because of Thalidomide?
I have my own point of view on this but I'll keep it to myself.
I feel that if it wasn't for this council promising to restore pay & that costs £2.8million a year to do which is £2.8x3=£8.4million would decisions like this have to happen if the council had held back on restoring pay?
Right this is the council not the Government doing this so let's get that right. Did this start because of Thalidomide? I have my own point of view on this but I'll keep it to myself. I feel that if it wasn't for this council promising to restore pay & that costs £2.8million a year to do which is £2.8x3=£8.4million would decisions like this have to happen if the council had held back on restoring pay? loosehead
  • Score: 0

7:32pm Mon 18 Feb 13

befriendly says...

While I feel very sorry for this particular woman I'm old enough to remember when there was hardly any help like she wants. No day centres, outreaching and all the other so called help groups. When she was in the last months of her life my aunt had to come and live with us as there was no where else she could go. In those days your family cared for you as they couldn't just put you into a care home at the tax payers expense. There were no council run playgroups or the such when my own children were born, women visited each others houses so the children could play, but having seen how some youngsters live these days its no wonder they want council run places. The more they have these days the more they want and all at the tax payers expense.

Regarding peoples spelling on here. My computer is set to English United Kingdom, yet when posting my spelling keeps getting underlined in red by the echo's spell checker being set to English United States. Now for you politico's to argue whether the echo is Democrat or Republican
While I feel very sorry for this particular woman I'm old enough to remember when there was hardly any help like she wants. No day centres, outreaching and all the other so called help groups. When she was in the last months of her life my aunt had to come and live with us as there was no where else she could go. In those days your family cared for you as they couldn't just put you into a care home at the tax payers expense. There were no council run playgroups or the such when my own children were born, women visited each others houses so the children could play, but having seen how some youngsters live these days its no wonder they want council run places. The more they have these days the more they want and all at the tax payers expense. Regarding peoples spelling on here. My computer is set to English United Kingdom, yet when posting my spelling keeps getting underlined in red by the echo's spell checker being set to English United States. Now for you politico's to argue whether the echo is Democrat or Republican befriendly
  • Score: 0

9:09pm Mon 18 Feb 13

loosehead says...

befriendly wrote:
While I feel very sorry for this particular woman I'm old enough to remember when there was hardly any help like she wants. No day centres, outreaching and all the other so called help groups. When she was in the last months of her life my aunt had to come and live with us as there was no where else she could go. In those days your family cared for you as they couldn't just put you into a care home at the tax payers expense. There were no council run playgroups or the such when my own children were born, women visited each others houses so the children could play, but having seen how some youngsters live these days its no wonder they want council run places. The more they have these days the more they want and all at the tax payers expense.

Regarding peoples spelling on here. My computer is set to English United Kingdom, yet when posting my spelling keeps getting underlined in red by the echo's spell checker being set to English United States. Now for you politico's to argue whether the echo is Democrat or Republican
I said all this & have been ripped into every time so I agree with you.
Surely if you want children then you should be financially capable of caring for them or you don't have them?
If you need help on your parenting skills what about asking your mother?
I remember if you couldn't afford to put down a deposit on a home you held back having children does that still happen?
I watch Saints & Sinners & one family found out if they had the child it would be in total pain & would have a very,very short life. with no thoughts for the child the parents(mother) wanted the child & then she expected her husband to give up work to help her look after the child Then she whinged she didn't get enough money from the state as her & her husband were out of work & some one showed them how to screw more out of the state?
Surely they must have looked into the problems & by her husband quitting work to help her why couldn't she look after the child whilst he worked?
There are options in life & you should be responsible for your decisions not the rest of us.
That all aside why is it okay to take the actions on pay the council took before balancing the books & then take away a discount that's been going for countless years?
surely it would have been they'd continue with existing tenants who get this discount but any new tenants in this position pay full rents?
[quote][p][bold]befriendly[/bold] wrote: While I feel very sorry for this particular woman I'm old enough to remember when there was hardly any help like she wants. No day centres, outreaching and all the other so called help groups. When she was in the last months of her life my aunt had to come and live with us as there was no where else she could go. In those days your family cared for you as they couldn't just put you into a care home at the tax payers expense. There were no council run playgroups or the such when my own children were born, women visited each others houses so the children could play, but having seen how some youngsters live these days its no wonder they want council run places. The more they have these days the more they want and all at the tax payers expense. Regarding peoples spelling on here. My computer is set to English United Kingdom, yet when posting my spelling keeps getting underlined in red by the echo's spell checker being set to English United States. Now for you politico's to argue whether the echo is Democrat or Republican[/p][/quote]I said all this & have been ripped into every time so I agree with you. Surely if you want children then you should be financially capable of caring for them or you don't have them? If you need help on your parenting skills what about asking your mother? I remember if you couldn't afford to put down a deposit on a home you held back having children does that still happen? I watch Saints & Sinners & one family found out if they had the child it would be in total pain & would have a very,very short life. with no thoughts for the child the parents(mother) wanted the child & then she expected her husband to give up work to help her look after the child Then she whinged she didn't get enough money from the state as her & her husband were out of work & some one showed them how to screw more out of the state? Surely they must have looked into the problems & by her husband quitting work to help her why couldn't she look after the child whilst he worked? There are options in life & you should be responsible for your decisions not the rest of us. That all aside why is it okay to take the actions on pay the council took before balancing the books & then take away a discount that's been going for countless years? surely it would have been they'd continue with existing tenants who get this discount but any new tenants in this position pay full rents? loosehead
  • Score: 0

Comments are closed on this article.

Send us your news, pictures and videos

Most read stories

Local Info

Enter your postcode, town or place name

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree