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Elderly and disabled people hit hardest by budget cuts, says Sheffield charity

Kirsty Worstenholm and Cathy Oliver who are struggling to keep their current services at the Sheffield branch of Mencap due to budget cuts
Kirsty Worstenholm and Cathy Oliver who are struggling to keep their current services at the Sheffield branch of Mencap due to budget cuts

Elderly parents are struggling to care for their severely disabled children because of budget cuts which have devastated services.

Older parents, some of who are in their 80s, and their grown-up disabled children are finding it harder to get support because of funding cuts.

Sheffield Mencap and Gateway has had to slash services due to financial pressures and says the city’s most vulnerable people are being hit the hardest.

The charity helps and supports carers over the age of 55 who are looking after an adult with a learning disability or autism.

In the past five years, the charity has lost 80 per cent of its funding, has had to reduce staff from nine positions to one job share role and is struggling to help the 1,000 families it works with.

Support worker Kirsty Worstenholm said families and the charity were under immense pressure. Sheffield Mencap, which is not funded by the national Mencap, has been around for 65 years.

Kirsty said: “We have been running the Sharing Caring Project for 22 years where we help carers looking after someone with autism or learning disabilities but cuts from the Government and the council have had a massive impact.

“We work with both the carers and the person with learning disabilities, helping them plan for the future, making sure services are in place and helping them fill in benefit forms.

“We used to work with social workers to make sure people had the right support in place but due to cuts and reductions in social care teams, this has made it difficult.

“Our biggest cut has been going from nine staff to two of us doing a job share and trying to look after the 1,000 carers we have on our books.

“It’s really hard to remain positive when we know how bad things really are. We have to fight for everything.”

Kirsty says people already in poverty and living on benefits are getting hit even harder.

“I have been here for 13 years and you get to know the families and build up relationships. We used to do home visits because a lot of our carers are elderly but that service had to be cut. We can only do one or two crisis care visits a month now.

“We used to be able to provide transport to support groups but that was cut. We have to be very creative with what little bit of money we do have.

“Because of social care budget cuts, carers are having to do a lot more. They have lost day services and respite care has also been cut so there are no places for them to go to.

“It’s really difficult because there used to be an amazing learning disabilities team at the council with a number of very skilled and knowledge workers who had the time, empathy and knowledge to give information to these carers.

“That team has gone and normal social workers are trying to do the job but they are struggling, which is understandable.”

Sheffield Council says it is investing in adult social care despite Government cuts.

Coun Chris Peace, Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care, said: “The council is seeking to protect adult social care at a time when national government has continually reduced their grant to us. The needs of our older and disabled people are continuing to rise.

“We have maintained and even increased the funding for adult social care in spite of these national cuts but this is not a sustainable situation.

“We haven’t reduced social care teams and have recently invested in this area. Workers with a background in learning disability work across adult social care in almost all of our frontline teams.

“Charitable organisations in Sheffield do an amazing job and are right to highlight the increasing pressure they are under because of government policy over the last ten years.

“We place extreme value on the work they do and remain committed to working alongside these organisations to best support local people.”