12:49PM, Tuesday 16 March 2021
Questions have been raised over the impact cuts and savings in next year’s budget will have on people in the borough with disabilities.
At a Windsor and Maidenhead council disability and inclusion forum yesterday (Monday), discussions took place on the local authority's budget for 2021/22, which will come into effect in April.
Although the budget sees increased funding for adult social care, several services will be cut, including the closure of the Oakbridge Day Centre and Windsor Day Centre, with daycare for adults set to be provided in a ‘different way’.
Concerns over the impact these closures may have on older residents and adults with learning disabilities were raised at the meeting.
Lisa Hughes, vice-chair of the panel, said: “People with learning disabilities are among the most marginalised in society, having poorer health, life expectancy and employment prospects while having a greater risk of domestic abuse and of dying from COVID-19.
“Any changes to support will affect a very small number of our residents but the budget cuts will have a large impact on them so I feel its really important for the forum to keep monitoring how this transformation is, hopefully, improving lives for adults with learning disabilities in our borough.”
Ms Hughes also went on to warn that moving services online could freeze out a lot of older people and adults with learning disabilities, potentially isolating them from help.
She said: “The other major concern relates to the digitisation of services and reduction in the allocation of staff and reduction in face-to-face and telephone support.
“Many people with disabilities and older people cannot or find it very hard to use online services, and this isn’t made any better by the Royal Borough website which can be best described as sub-optimal.
“Residents affected by this will be amongst the most vulnerable in our borough and we must ensure their needs are met.”
In response to Ms Hughes’s comments, Councillor Samantha Rayner (Con, Eton and Castle), the council's lead member for IT, said she hoped to work with the panel to ensure the services work for all residents.
She said: “This is a really important topic you’ve raised and I think it’s going to be so much more important going forward; COVID has shown us how people can access services is incredibly important.
"I would like to reach out to you, perhaps we should pick this up outside the meeting and do something on that, I’m really keen.
“The library service are doing an awful lot about helping people with digital inclusion, but we are also aware that it’s not all about digital, it’s also about face-to-face, and that’s something we are thinking about going forward, face-to-face will remain.”