Statement from Cllr Kathy Bole on the Befriending Scheme
I took part in a phone discussion on BBC Radio Suffolk this morning to discuss Suffolk County Council’s Cabinet decision to withdraw funding to some features of the Befriending Scheme.
I am very disappointed that the council has taken this action despite the importance to people with learning difficulties. However, I am not surprised. This action, is another attack on the lives of disabled people which has been on the agenda since the inception of austerity.
I know that the council will say that they are not stopping the service. No, technically some elements will continue, but only for people who are getting ready to return to the workplace. And for those whom the service does continue, however, they will not be able to claim back travel expenses. This makes it unaffordable for many of those who are attempting to get into work as they simply do not have the extra money needed for transport. It is short-sighted of the council to ignore the statistics that show that the type of jobs that people with learning difficulties could get are in short supply in Suffolk. So, what happens when those few finish the work related activities?This action by the council will, along with the stopping of rural travel routes, lead to the return and worsening of social isolation amongst those who used the service.
My heart breaks for the individuals who will now find themselves cut adrift from friends and social interactions. The consultation seems to have ignored the voices of the vulnerable which this council claims to value and protect.
I will, with my colleagues in the Labour Group, continue to work for these and all vulnerable people in Suffolk. We will continue to try influence the council to look for alternatives to ending these vital services.