‘Cuts MUST stop affecting the blind’: Bolton councillor outraged after report reveals impact of social care shortages

By Ben Butler

The government must stop cuts affecting blind people a Bolton councillor has urged after data revealed a shortage of basic adult social care services.

The shocking findings released by the Royal National Institution of Blind People (RNIB) show there is only one NHS hospital with an eye clinic, as well as one Rehabilitation Officer and Eye Clinic Liaison Officer in Bolton.

In 2011, 7,490 people in Bolton were estimated to be living with sight loss – a figure expected to increase to 8,960 by 2020.

Cabinet Member for Adults, Cllr Christopher Peacock, said: “Bolton Council works very closely with its health partners and the voluntary sector to develop services for people with a visual impairment.

 “The issue of sight loss is an important one for the council’s health and wellbeing board and our strategy for 2013 to 2016 focuses on tackling some of the contributory factors to sight loss in later life, such as diabetes.

“The on-going NHS Health Checks are also aimed at identifying and treating these risk factors.

“I welcome the lobbying of the Government by RNIB but would add that we as Local Authorities need the Government to realise they cannot continue to cut Council funding and expect Adult Social Care to continue the way it is.”

The council currently deliver the Independent Living Service (ILS) which promotes independence by offering advice, equipment, mobility training, adaptation and long term support.

A report by the RNIB also concluded no blind or partially sighted people in England will receive any form of care or support from their local council.

The other findings of the report, which included people of all ages, are as follows found that a 43% decline in the number of blind and partially sighted people in England getting even the most basic types of support – down from 55,875 to 31,740, nearly 25,000 fewer people.

There was also a 30% decline in care and support for adults with a physical disability and since 2005 the number of blind and partially sighted people receiving professional support, has fallen by more than 70 per cent.

RNIB’s Chief Executive, Lesley-Anne Alexander CBE said: “Every year 23,000 people in England lose their sight.

“Invariably this has a devastating impact on their lives.

“Not only does sight loss have a massive emotional impact, but it also means having to re-learn almost every aspect of your life.

“Shockingly people living with sight loss are increasingly losing out whether it is specialist support, rehabilitation or even help with basic activities, such as learning how to cook a meal or going outdoors safely.

Cllr Peacock was outraged that an increasing number of local authorities are severely restricting access to rehabilitation or only offering a strict six week course and that a quarter of local authorities don’t provide rehab to newly diagnosed people unless they’ve had an assessment of their care needs first.

Other issues that have also come to light are that a number of councils are making people wait many months before getting in touch and even then may not provide a service.

The government have provided additional funding to councils to deliver the services   with an extra £100m to be provided for 2013/2014, whilst £200m will be given in 2014/2015.

The funding is part of a £3.8bn health and social care bill for the NHS and local authorities.

The problem is compounded further by statistics revealing an estimated increase in the elderly population in Bolton, rising from 29,500 people aged over 70 in 2011 to 38,000 by 2020.

CE Alexander added: “If you are blind or partially sighted and you have care needs, the prospects of getting council care and support are fast diminishing.

“Being left alone to cope with sight loss is wholly unacceptable.

“No matter how tight the budgets of Government are, this is essential support which must be provided.

“The Government needs to act now.” 

Picture courtesy of Louisa Billeter via Flickr, with thanks.

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