Norfolk proposed disability cuts could be ‘disastrous’

Feared budget cuts would make disabled people feel socially excluded, make work and travel difficult and would end up costing more, according to a new report by Norfolk's Coalition of Disabled People (NCODP).

Representatives from the coalition released the report and a DVD yesterday which looked at the impact of national budget cuts and tax changes, and at the additional cuts from cash-strapped local councils.

The report, by Dr Chris Edwards for NCODP, has been submitted to the Big Conversation consultation by Norfolk County Council.

Of Norfolk County Council's proposed �136m cuts in services over the next three years, �45m will have a direct impact on disabled people.

The increase in VAT is expected to add �158 to bills in an average household which means around 100,000 disabled people in Norfolk will see their standard of living decline by a third.

And 45,000 people of working age will lose more than �500 a year because of changes to their disability benefits, such as Disability Living Allowance (DLA), according to the report.

Mark Harrison, CEO of NCODP said: 'The cuts discriminate against disabled people who are experiencing double discrimination – cuts in benefits and regressive tax changes from central government and devastation of local services if Norfolk County Council implements its proposals in the Big Conversation.

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'They will cut access to work and housing benefit. They are discriminatory and disproportionate.'

Kathy Saunders, Chair of NCODP said: 'The proposed cuts would be disastrous for disabled people for many years to come.

'It will put them at a social disadvantage and the total impact has to be assessed. The cuts will cause damage to vulnerable people and families which will be unnecessarily expensive or impossible to repair.'

David Harwood member of Norfolk County Council's cabinet said: 'We would like to thank everyone who has come forward. We have had a lot of people respond to the Big Conversation. We have heard from about 25,000 individuals and organisations, some of which represent tens of thousands of people.

'We will do the best we can for everyone. We said we will look after the vulnerable and needy and they will be foremost in our thoughts when we make big decisions.'

The report explained alternatives to the budget cuts, which included upcapping National Insurance contributions so they are paid at 11pc all the way up the income scale, which would generate �9.1bn and a 50pc tax on gross income above �100,000 a year (it is currently �150,000 or more) which would raise a further �2.3bn.

Dr Chris Edwards, author of the report, said: 'There are two problems; the unequal nature of the cuts and the counter productive nature of the cuts. We can do it in different ways – we can tax the rich and we can tax the financial sector.'

Carl Grint, communications officer for NCODP, who lives in Thorpe said: 'My Disability Living Allowance (DLA) could be cut. They will definitely cut off DLA for people in care homes. If my DLA was cut I would not be able to get to work. It is not acceptable.'

Do you think you or your family will be affected by any cuts? Tell us your story. Call reporter Lucy Wright on 01603 772495