Disabled homes cash save plan

Melanie Close, chief executive of Disability Equality North West.
Melanie Close, chief executive of Disability Equality North West.
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More than 200 disabled people could be moved out of their homes by Lancashire County Council in a bid to save £4.2m.

The authority is considering reducing the size of its in-house domiciliary service, which currently supports 320 people in 112 properties.

The proposals would see around 120 people with “higher level needs” remain in these houses, while “more cost-effective” living arrangements are sought for other tenants.

Council bosses believe this would allow the authority to cut its staff and generate £4.2m of savings over four years.

The council needs to save around £300m from its annual budget by 2017/18, due to cuts in government funding.

David Borrow, deputy leader and portfolio holder for finance at the council, said introducing the changes would be “a long, difficult process”.

The Labour councillor said: “We’re changing the way we look after vulnerable people and that’s not easy to do.

“Homes were set up with tenancies for people with disabilities, and when they were originally set up, three to four people would share a house with domiciliary support.

“As those tenants move out or die, the remaining tenants need to agree before anybody else can move in.

“The problem is we have lots of properties with fewer than the number of tenants that were in these homes originally. There are lots of vacancies. We’re not aiming to take away support and services from tenants, but because they have got tenancy rights in the existing agreements, we’ve got to find a way of changing the situation so we’re making the best use of the properties.”

Coun Borrow said a consultation had begun, involving the council’s budget working group and the voluntary sector. The plans will go before cabinet members later this month. He added: “This is one of the most difficult and sensitive areas to work through.”

Former council leader Geoff Driver branded the proposals “outrageous”.

The Conservative group leader said: “These are really vulnerable people.

“They are going to reduce the number of tenants by two thirds. It is disgraceful to even think of doing it.”

Melanie Close, chief executive of Disability Equality North West, said people living in supported housing often had ‘substantial’ needs, which can include an inability to carry out the majority of personal care or domestic routines. She said reassessments would likely take place, raising concerns about what alternative support would be offered to tenants who might now be judged by the council to only have ‘moderate’ needs.

She said: “There is a reason there are currently 320 people in supported accommodation, so what is the alternative? The council needs to make sure they’re putting in the same level of support.

“Supported housing is expensive but if that’s what people need, they should get it..We’re never adverse to looking at different ways of doing things, but money can’t be the motivator of that.”