Southwark council told to halt £1m cuts to carers

By Robert Firth, Local Democracy Reporter

Officials have called on a council to halt more more £1m in planned cuts to short break services for carers.

Southwark council wants to save £1.1 million between 2023 and 2024 by spending less money on overnight respite care.

Respite allows carers to take a break, while the person they normally look after is cared for by somebody else. One such service in Southwark is Orient Street in Kennington. 

The centre provides overnight stays to five children and young people, and five adults with autism or learning difficulties. It is believed to be the only service of its type in the borough. 

A Southwark council official said carers were increasingly choosing to receive direct payments so they could arrange breaks themselves, rather than using overnight respite services.

It plans to instead hand more carers’ money directly and let them arrange their own breaks. The council also wants to increase voluntary placements. 

But opponents of the planned cuts are calling for the council to rethink. They say carers need consulting before going ahead with axing overnight respite services. 

Councillor Laura Johnson said the Labour-led council should find other ways to make savings rather than cutting its short breaks offer.

She told a scrutiny meeting on Tuesday: “How can the portfolio potentially reconfigure itself to be less expensive but continue to offer the respite provided by Southwark and not just through the use of direct payments?”

Cllr Irina Von Wiese, Liberal Democrat member for Borough and Bankside, said she feared the council was ploughing ahead with the cuts, without having consulted carers.

She told the meeting: “I don’t think we have enough evidence about the real impact that will have on carers. 

“We would also like to have this reviewed, at least with a view of having proper consultation with residents and in particular adult carers who use [the] respite care service.”

The planned cuts to respite services were revealed in the council’s draft planned savings as part of its 2023/24 budget.

Southwark council’s headquarters (Picture: Google Street View)

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