Nottingham Disability Support charity pleads for more cash in face of council cuts

Disabled people are being pushed "to the bottom of the pile" and are becoming "institutionalised" due to council cuts, claims the chief exec of a Nottingham disability charity. Disability Support, which is a registered non-profit organisation based in Basford, has pleaded to Nottingham City Council for help following an increased demand for their services.

They say this is due to council budget cuts that have impacted adults' and children's social care. The charity provides assistance to disabled people, older people and carers with anything that may impact their independent living.

Disability Support is run by disabled people and their main services include support with benefit forms, tribunal appeals, blue badge applications and challenging social care decisions. The charity also runs peer support events such as mental health groups and seated yoga.

They are currently funded through the National Lottery Community Fund and say they are reliant on small grants, fundraisers and donations. However, chief exec Charlotte Throssel warns that their current sources of financial support don't go far enough to keep up with increased demands.

Speaking at the charity's centre in Basford, she said: "As other services are closing, we are getting more and more demand because people don’t know where to go and they are asking us questions they can’t get answers to elsewhere. The council have changed the criteria for services and there's nobody there to help them reduce their bills and to help them keep their head above water.

"There’s a massive increase in need and yet the council have just reduced everything to the bare minimum, if not taken it away at times."

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The charity says last year they took around 7,300 enquiries, which is expected to increase this year. They are currently unable to do home visits and there is a six-week wait on support with benefit forms.

In March, budget cuts to social care were approved following the declaration of effective bankruptcy by Nottingham City Council. Charlotte says she believes this decision has impacted the livelihoods of disabled people.

She said: "The most vulnerable people are becoming more isolated because they're unable to get out. There's problems with the transport that the city council has now funded as they only allow certain people on the buses, claiming if 'your wheelchair is too big or you're too heavy' they won't let you on.

"That’s going to have a massive impact on people's mental and physical health and then eventually these people will turn up in crisis and it all could have been avoided. All of the groups and the lunch clubs that have had to close because they lost funding now means people have got nowhere to go so they stay at home.

"They become isolated and institutionalised and then they end up at crisis point. And in my opinion, that is going to cost the council a lot more money than budgeting correctly and sensibly and keeping certain services running.”

Disability Support is run by a team of nine with three benefits advisors and two community welfare advisors. The charity regularly takes referrals from other local services.

They have recently opened a new community garden at their Basford centre where volunteers are growing a range of fruit and vegetables. Jo, who has previously received support from the organisation, is heading the garden project.

She says she believes the work the charity does is important for disabled people in Nottingham. She said: "They helped me get a stairlift so I don’t have to move house. It means I can still live close to my children and my grandkids. This is a really worthwhile place. And now we're opening this garden for the community.

"Food banks are very good for tins, but people need fresh fruit and veg, and growing it here will also help us raise funds for this place. The plan is to set up a gardening club where we can all learn new skills and we're also hoping to get a food club running so we can eat the fruit and vegetables ourselves."

Disability Support says it fears future budget cuts to adult and children social care and the impact this will have on its services. On June 13, it was reported that Nottingham City Council missed their targets for social care savings between 2023-24, with £25m needed to be found over the next four years.

Charlotte said: "There'd be a very strong risk that disabled people would not survive. If you’re going to take away services that help them stay financially and physically independent, that is eventually going to have the worst possible negative effect on their lives.

"We need funding to bring in more advisors but it needs to be invested sensibly. We need services we can signpost people to as we’re filling every possible gap we can but we’re only a small charity. We’re a team of nine people.

"At the end of the day, disabled people are citizens of Nottingham and if they’re not here, then they’re not able to vote in the next election. The council should stop isolating them, stop pushing them to the bottom of the pile, and start concentrating on letting people live and enjoy life again."

A Nottingham City Council spokesperson said: "We’re very mindful of helping residents to live independently and supporting disabled people is a priority as one of our key statutory duties. The council remains in a very challenging financial situation which required a number of budget savings to be proposed earlier this year.

"None of these were taken lightly and all were fully consulted on before any decision was taken. Our Adult Social Care team continues to work closely with residents who have specific support needs.

"Everyone has an individual assessment which takes into account personal choices, and we work with them to maximise their strengths and achieve the best outcomes for them."