Unhappy Christmas card message from campaigners

Campaigners fighting to prevent disabled people from bearing the brunt of government cuts have sent a ‘special’ protest Christmas card to Norfolk MPs and county councillors.

The Norfolk Coalition of Disabled People (NCODP) has sent the Christmas card to all of Norfolk’s councillors and MPs pointing out the uncertainty over whether key services will survive means Norfolk’s 180,000 disabled people are facing worrying Christmas and a new year tinged with fear.

The card registers the “devastating effects” the NCODP says the coalition government’s policies and Norfolk County Council’s cuts to bridge a £155m spending gap in the next three years will have on vulnerable people, whose independence could be threatened.

Mark Harrison, NCODP chief executive, said: “These cuts are neither fair nor necessary. Disabled people are experiencing a double whammy as they are being targeted in a disproportionate and discriminatory way by both central and local government.”

The Christmas card highlights a recent report from the Office of National Statistics which found many disabled people are socially isolated, cash-strapped and struggling to take part in normal activities.

Mr Harrison said disabled people and their families are poorer than their peers and have less access to education, training and jobs because of discrimination and barriers in society.

He said many are more reliant on benefits and services than other sections of the population – which means they will be particularly hard hit by the cuts.

Mr Harrison said: “If the main focus of cuts is these very benefits and services then it is inevitable that they are completely unfair.

“I think that if the Norfolk MPs and county councillors are serious when they say they have the best interests of Norfolk citizens at heart, then they would tell the coalition government that it is not possible to implement these changes to benefits and over £155m cuts without causing poverty and misery to the most vulnerable people in the community – and refuse to do it.”

David Harwood, cabinet member for adult and community services at Norfolk County Council, said: “I understand these concerns, these are very challenging times. The sheer size and scale of the savings we must make to balance our books is unprecedented.

“That means that we, like all other social care authorities are faced with some really hard choices and as we have said, we can only make them through radical change in both what we do and the way we do things in the future.

“The fact is that we are facing a 28pc cut in the amount of grant we get from government over the coming few years and at the same time demand for social care continues to rise year on year.

“We are listening and won’t decide until we have heard what people say and considered all views in the round.”

Earlier this month the county council’s Big Conversation was branded a “Big Con” by the NCODP.

They said they had not been given enough meaningful information about the plans, which include proposals to shut down council-run sensory support services for the deaf and the blind.

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