On Wednesday 2nd March, Bristol City Council will meet to agree a new budget.
The proposed budget includes over £11 million of cuts to social care. This will have devastating consequences for disabled and older people in the city. Members of Bristol Reclaiming Independent Living (BRIL) explain that without services and support it is impossible for disabled people to live full and active lives. Yet the Council repeatedly refer to reduced social care as a means to ‘maximise independence’.
This meeting comes more than a week after several amendments to the budget were passed. These included reversal of charging disabled people for accessible ‘Blue Badge’ parking spaces. However, the amendments did not refer to adult social care.
Protestors outside City Hall will carry a homemade coffin with the words ‘Independent Living RIP’. They wear balls and chains round their ankle to symbolise the disabling impact of removing services and support. They are providing Councillors with ‘bingo’ cards with what BRIL refer to as the multiple excuses used to cut social care. They encourage Councillors to listen out and tick off the excuses.
In 2017, Bristol City Council paid a consultancy firm Impower £286,855.29 to help the Council manage demand for social care. The same approach has been used to justify cuts to Home to School transport for Disabled children. This firm appears to have provided the Council with much of the language that is now being used to cut services.
BRIL provided a statement of objection to the Council’s 2022 budget. The statement was signed by Disabled people, families, national Disabled People’s and Mental Health service user / survivor organisations, SEND campaigners, the Social Workers Union, the Social Work Action Network, senior academics at the University of Bristol and the University of Bath, and many others.
Bristol Reclaiming Independent Living (BRIL) are very worried that on the 15th February 2022, Bristol City Council are proposing major cuts that will affect disabled people’s lives.
We are concerned that many disabled people may not be aware of the cutbacks that are planned.
Bristol City Council did not provide details of the proposals in the consultation, held over Christmas 2021. This meant that Disabled people, families and social care workers in Bristol did not have enough time or information to respond. They could not know that cuts of more than £11 Million to the adult social care budget were planned, or how they might impact them. These plans are in addition to major cuts and ‘efficiencies’ to Bristol’s ‘Special Educational Needs and Disabilities’ (SEND) budget.
We are very concerned that the Council are ignoring their duties to ensure the wellbeing of Disabled adults and children, and their duties to prevent needs increasing.
The budget proposals also say that there will not be any further consultation on the following three proposals, planned for this year:
Clawing back contingency funds from people who receive a Direct Payment for Adult Social Care:
Budget reduction £500,000
Move people over to NHS Continuing Health Care funding:
Budget reduction £ 350,000
Review individual Care and Support plans:
Budget reduction £ 1,000,000
This means that £ 1,850,000 of cuts are not open to consultation. In other words, the decision been made without asking those effected.
These are statutory services for needs that the council must meet by law. This is not expenditure which the council can just decide not to spend. The council has a statutory duty to provide social care in line with the Care Act 2014to ensure that the Wellbeing principles are met for every individual assessed as eligible for services, and to prevent people’s needs increasing.
The council is already failing to do this on the current funding levels, however they gave made statements such as ‘…there is little or no noticeable frontline impact on the services people receive.‘
We are also deeply worried about other ‘savings’ that will impact Disabled people with the highest support needs, including Autistic people, people with learning difficulties, people with serious mental illness and people living with dementia. These include proposals to privatise Concorde Lodge (a residential assessment unit), passing over responsibility for Section 117 mental health aftercare and cutting £1 million for Community Links.
We cannot see how this shows leadership, or how it ensures the services Disabled people need to live equal lives, both now and in the future, are sustainable.
The impact of these threatened cuts is already being felt. As a member of the Bristol Reclaiming Independent Living (BRIL) put it ‘I feel terrified of the social care budget cuts. The immediate impact is to reduce my ability to function and make decisions.’ Many other members expressed similarly deep fear and concern about these cuts to the basic services needed for daily life
A statement signed by individuals and organisations is included below.
If you want to know more about the cuts and want your voice heard please contact us:
We the undersigned call on Bristol City Council to scrap it’s proposed budget cuts.
Bristol City Council’s proposed budget cuts include more than £11 million cuts to adult social care. The council explain that the cuts are necessary to meet an overall budgetary shortfall of £19.5 million.
In an online announcement on 3rd December the Labour council provides no opposition to the budget cuts. Instead, the cuts are described as ways of ‘working more efficiently’, ‘making best use’ of property, ‘removing unnecessary duplication, and getting best value from our suppliers’. The result of these apparently laudable aims is not to cut the salaries of highly paid council leaders. Instead, despite statutory obligations under the Care Act 2014, the impact of the proposed budget is predominantly targeted at adult social care. Such cuts threaten the lives of Disabled people who are already struggling with reduced support services and have been the hardest hit by the pandemic.
A supposed consultation carried out in December was inaccessible to many of the city’s residents and did not include details of the budgetary proposals. Local government decision making is subject to the need for adequate consultation as defined by the Gunning principles. There must be “sufficient information to give ‘intelligent consideration’. The information provided must relate to the consultation and must be available, accessible, and easily interpretable for consultees to provide an informed response”
The importance of compliance with this, together with the Public Sector Equality Duty was demonstrated in the High Court ruling that the consultation for the Government’s Disability Strategy was unlawful.
Bristol City Council has previously failed to carry out lawful prebudget consultation in relation to its SEND budget. The court ruled that rather than aiming to comply with statutory duties the council’s decision making process was:
“driven entirely from the standpoint of ensuring a balanced budget”
The Council does not appear to have learned from that ruling. There has been no significant consultation with social care users in Bristol as to the impact of the budget reductions.
Social care services have been under serious pressure for some time, with the council relying on the low pay and over work of many outsourced care providers. The council must understand the impact of further proposed budget cuts.
A member of the Disabled People’s Organisation, ‘Bristol Reclaiming Independent Living’ explained, ‘I feel terrified of the social care budget cuts. The immediate impact is to reduce my ability to function and make decisions’. Other members expressed similarly deep fear and concern.
The council claims to wish to ‘continue to deliver high-quality services for everyone’. Yet this proposed budget does the opposite.
Bristol Labour has made a choice as to which services to cut in order to balance their budget. We reject their choice and call for them to respect the choices of disabled people.
We call for this budget to be scrapped immediately.
Provision of social care is a statutory obligation under the Care Act 2014. Social care is already underfunded and individual disabled people are already paying the price. These services are essential for daily life and should therefore be non-negotiable.
Support for people under Section 117 of the Mental Health Act 1983 is also a statutory obligation which cannot be cut without serious impact on people in crisis.
Instead, we call for publicly accessible and meaningful consultation on alternative solutions to the council’s budget crisis.
Bristol Defend the Asylum Seekers Campaign (BDASC)
Bristol SEND Justice
Care and Support Workers Organise (CasWO)
Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC)
National Survivor Users Network (NSUN)
Recovery In The Bin
Shaping Our Lives
Social Workers Union
Social Work Action Network (SWAN) South West
Andrew Bolton, Disability Murals
Beverly Greenwood, Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC)
Dr Aurelien Mondon, University of Bath
Dr Harriet Lupton MRCGP, MRCP, Chair of Hearing Impairment Support Scheme, former GP
Dr Navin Kikabhai, University of Bristol
Dr Rebecca Yeo, University of Bristol
Prof Bridget Anderson, Professor of Migration, Mobilities and Citizenship, University of Bristol
Fleur Perry, Disabled activist
Frank Spencer, Redweather Productions Ltd
Helen Rowlands, Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC)
Jan Berry, Family Carer
Jo Benefield, BDASC
Joanna Booth, Journalist
John McGowan, General Secretary, Social Workers Union
Linda Burnip, Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC)
Mark Williams, Co-Founder BRIL
Robina Mallett (Family Carer and ex-member of the Standing Commission on Carers)
Sally Kent, Bristol SEND Justice
Val Stansfield, BRIL
Waltraud Pospischil, BRIL,
Please note: Many other BRIL members reliant on social care funding who wish to maintain anonymity to avoid the risk of personal repercussions in their provision.
BRIL is an independent group in Bristol run by and for Disabled people, people with chronic illness, people with experience of mental illness/distress and neuro-divergent people.
The mural includes messages and images from people living in a wide range of circumstances in Bristol. Artist Andrew Bolton and researcher Rebecca Yeo brought together the ideas of: Deaf and disabled activists, disabled students and academics, refugees, homeless asylum seekers and people with many of those experiences combined.
On the day asylum seekers, Deaf campaigners, Disabled people, people living with chronic illness, artists, academics, students, refugee rights and community groups came together to celebrate the mural. As Rebecca said;
‘So why are we bringing together disabled people and people with experience of the asylum system? There is a lot of overlap. Many asylum seekers experience severe mental distress, or have other forms of impairments. But in this mural we are not only working with people who identify as disabled. The mural highlights that the UK asylum system is actively and deliberately disabling.
We bring people together, to learn from each other and to build understanding of the similarities and differences in our experiences.’
The mural also includes an image of Kamil Ahmed. Kamil worked with us on a mural in 2012 . He held his head in despair at the injustices caused by the Home Office. This was 4 years before he was murdered in Bristol. We are repeating his image and dedicate this mural to him. We build solidarity in his honour
The mural shows the barriers and injustices that marginalised people and communities experience, both before and during COVID-19.
It also shows how we hope things can change, if we all work together.
There will also be a film about the project, plus audio description of the mural, and information in Arabic, English, Kurdish and Pashto coming soon…
Find out more about the project at the Disability Murals website, including information in British Sign Language (BSL) go to:
Disabled People reject new ‘tick box’ national disability strategy.
Disabled people and our organisations[i] across the country have expressed outrage at the Government’s decision to go ahead with the launch of a national disability strategy[ii] that is not a strategy, does not address key problems, does not reflect the issues and priorities of Disabled people and was not developed with Disabled people organisations[iii].
We have been waiting for 10 long years for a strategy that will tackle the growing poverty, exclusion and discrimination we face and set out a transformative plan for social justice, equality and inclusion. This so-called strategy does neither of these things.
The lack of meaningful engagement with Disabled people and our organisations in the development of this so-called strategy has been so bad that a group of Disabled campaigners are taking the Government to court on the grounds that consultation was so poor as to be unlawful[iv]
A spokesperson for the DPO forum said:
“Disabled people have been ignored yet again by this government. We know Disabled people have been disproportionately harmed by austerity, cuts to public services, cuts to benefits, a broken social care system and the Government’s on-going failure to protect and support Disabled people through this pandemic[v] . Working with Disabled people and our organisations to develop a disability strategy able to tackle these deep inequalities was an opportunity this Government has chosen to ignore. Instead, its pressed ahead with a tick box exercise producing a non-strategy not fit for purpose and that has limited credibility with Disabled people.”
Unlike the big disability charities that claim to speak for Disabled people, but do not represent us, Disabled peoples’ organisations are united in our opposition to this so-called strategy and once again call on the Government to start working with Disabled people, not against us.
Disabled people make up 20% of our population with many more people becoming disabled as a result of long covid. A key part of this governments ‘levelling up’ and ‘building back better’ agenda must be a disability strategy that embeds the Convention on the rights of Disabled people (UN CRPD)[vi] into domestic law and addresses the complex and deepening inequalities we experience. We call on the Government to put this tokenistic non-strategy aside with its raft of re-hashed policies, random actions and vague promises for future consultations, and start really working with us so we can get our equality and inclusion back on track.
[i] Names of DPO Forum England members: Alliance for Inclusive Education, Chronic Illness Inclusion, West of England Centre for Independent Living, Disability Sheffield, Bristol Reclaiming Independent Living, Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance (ROFA), Equal Lives, Disability Rights UK, Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People, Disability Positive, Equality Together, Choices and Rights (Hull& East Riding), Breakthrough, Spectrum CIL, National Survivors Users Network, Sisters of Frida, Disabled People Against Cuts, Liberation, Inclusion London, People First, Shaping Our Lives, Disability Stockport
John Darvall, BBC Radio Bristol: Let’s go to Mark. Mark, who is from Bristol, he is from BRIL, which is Bristol Reclaiming Independent Living. They’re a group who campaign for improvements in social care and the right to live independently. Mark is disabled, he has a personal assistant who helps him with his care, and acts as his speaker. So we’ve recorded this for you to hear. Mark Williams, BRIL: So what we’d like to ask Bristol City council is, First of all, can they ensure there will be no cuts to Adult Social Care? Secondly, we ask that the council use powers that all local authorities already have, to end all charges for Adult Social Care, as they have done in Hammersmith and Fulham. These charges are discriminatory attacks on disability that causes debt, and are a major barrier to choice and control.
John Darvall: Mark there, with the help of his assistant who was speaking for him. Helen Holland, Mark alluded there to the how, you had mentioned a little bit earlier, you talked about how councils are doing things differently, and you’re looking at different ways of doing things. Do you think Bristol could ever get to the point where it abolishes extra charges for Adult Social Care?
Councillor Helen Holland, Bristol City Council:
Well the first thing to say is I know Mark very well, and so it’s great to hear him. I think, as I said, that I’m happy for Bristol to be seen as a high spender, but I would like that to also mean that we’re a high performer. So, part of it is about trying to spend the money better and do things that more people, either with disabilities or older people, that they want us to do so that it’s the solutions that they, that they want. And that’s about transforming the services. It’s also about giving those people more say in how we commission the service, and also about more say about how they spend their money. So a lot of people now are on direct payments and they can choose how they employ their carers, how they spend their money.
You know one person, what they wanted was to have the membership as a national trust so that they could get up to Tyntsfield, and and go and enjoy the space out there. And that’s fine, so long as we can justify that that’s helping with their wellbeing. So there’s all sorts of things that we are doing. And I think that what that boils down to, is people having more say and more choice. But can I just come back very briefly to the point about making decisions in a crisis, because that might not only be for older people might not it, it might be for younger people with long term conditions.
And I think that that’s the value of talking to you John today, and doing programmes like this and how it’s being more on people’s radar. But you, really uncomfortable though it is, you really do need to sit down with people and say, What do you want further down the line? So that you’re not making those decisions, at a crisis, and that you’re more aware of what the options are.
BRIL would like to know what you think about this.
This event is a chance for Deaf and Disabled people to have their say on what has happened to them during the Covid-19 pandemic, learn about other people’s experiences and share ideas about what the right to Independent Living means, during and after COVID-19.