Protecting the vulnerable in a time of cuts

By on 19/12/2014 in Blog, Cllr Cotton
Cllr John Cotton

Cllr John Cotton

Cabinet member for Health and Wellbeing, Cllr John Cotton, on the challenge of protecting vulnerable people at a time of massive Government cuts.

One of the main reasons I got into politics in the first place was to protect the most vulnerable people in this city.

So to be a cabinet member at a time of such devastating cuts in Government funding for Birmingham is challenging to say the least.

Nevertheless, we’re still focussed on the most vulnerable people in Birmingham. The stark reality is that we have a lot less money and will have to make some difficult decisions about many of the services we’ve traditionally funded.

We will continue to meet our duty to care for those in critical and substantial need but the pressure of doing that means that inevitably we have to make reductions in other areas. Not surprisingly, the burden of those cuts falls on our discretionary/non-statutory services.

So far, the questions to me in our budget consultation have largely focussed on two areas: Supporting People and mental health services.

Now I’m a firm believer in the vital role of preventative services but when there’s a limited pool of money, the non-statutory services inevitably bear the pressure. What we are doing is ensuring that we continue to provide support for some of that preventative activity – for instance we’re sustaining our Supporting People programme, which is something that other councils have taken out completely. That’s the kind of preventative work that stops people getting into a condition where they then need hospital care or residential care.

Some of the most moving contributions to the consultation have come from people concerned about mental health services – in particular the STaR service.

I have personal experience of dealing with the issues around mental health, so I absolutely get why this is important.

It’s important to note that the vast majority (90 per cent) of the mental health budget in Birmingham comes from the NHS.

Consequently we’re looking to work with our partners in the health service, looking at the entirety of the budget to see how we can continue to provide prevention and early intervention support. We’re still looking to ensure that people can access the support that they need but looking at how we can bring the NHS and other partners on board and using the money in a more effective way.

So, while we’re consulting on cutting the StaR service, we’re looking at how we can integrate and redesign the service, so we continue to provide that kind of signposting and support but making use of the limited money that we now have.

Overall, we’re determined to protect provision as much as we can and we’re focussed on the needs of the most vulnerable.

Where possible we will continue to support preventative work because we know that prevention works – helping people live independent lives without the need for more expensive statutory services is not only morally the right thing to do, it also makes sound financial sense.

The budget consultation is hugely important to the future of council services in Birmingham and I’d like to urge people to play their part.

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