Austerity bites hard for the disabled… and for trafficked women

The UK government’s redirection of funding for the daily care of the severely disabled to overstretched local governments is a disaster in the making. An excellent comment piece by Zoe Williams in the Guardian explains why:

Anne Pridmore, who has cerebral palsy, remembers that the last time she was surviving on only what her local authority would provide, she had to have a hysterectomy because they wouldn’t fund anyone to keep her clean. Mary Lavers, who has had rheumatoid arthritis for 25 years, has seen what her council’s care package looks like; it doesn’t have enough visits in it for loo breaks, so she’d end up sitting on a wet incontinence pad for much of the day.

The DWP’s defence is that the money will be passed on to local authorities, but it isn’t ringfenced, so they could spend it on anything. That isn’t intended as a slur on local government – they are the most squeezed by “austerity”, indeed, the cuts only seem to be hitting the benefits bill and local authorities. Well over half of a council’s budget goes on adult and children’s social care, which is what disability support comes under. By 2015, councils will have taken a 41% cut on average, and this money will overwhelmingly have been cut from social care budgets.

I’m struck by the similarity to the situation faced by the Poppy Project, a special initiative to rehabilitate women trafficked to the UK for sex. The Poppy Project is run by Eaves, a charity that brings together a number of initiatives to help women who have been affected by violence. Eaves is staffed by specialists who are trained in the issues, connected to the right organisations, and entirely committed to doing one thing well.

Until 2011, most of their funding came from the federal government. But in April of that year, a three-year, £6 million contract was given instead to the Salvation Army. Just as austerity-stressed local governments are likely to redirect a lot of disability funding elsewhere, the Salvation Army are free to spend the £6 million on assisting trafficked women… or on anything else they consider a priority. Their staff, as dedicated as they surely are, are unlikely to match the staff of the Poppy Project for specialist knowledge and experience. The likely outcome for trafficked women is worrying.

Eaves has managed to keep the Poppy Project going in the two years following the government’s withdrawal of funding. They now rely on donations from the public. You can donate to Eaves here, and help keep this important work going.

If you, or someone you know, needs help from the Poppy Project, please telephone 020 7735 2062 for confidential advice and support.

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