Council apologises over disability benefit cut timings

Nottinghamshire County Council © westbridgfordwire.com
Nottinghamshire County Council © westbridgfordwire.com

The leader of Nottinghamshire County Council has apologised after some people were told their disability benefits were being cut with just 48 hours notice.

In November, the council decided to reduce the amount of people’s disability benefits they could keep before having to contribute to their own care.

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It affected 862 people, with those aged 18-25 losing £56.55 a week.

This amounted to a third of their income for some, and many only had 48 hours notice of the change.

Opposition councillors and disability activists have been strongly critical of the way the scheme was rolled out, calling it “callous” and “organised cruelty”.

The Conservative-run council has said it will delay the roll-out and will do it in two phases.

The first reduction will come in April, while the full cut will be made in November.

It also said it will give people at least six week’s notice before any change is made.

The changes bring the council in line with some other parts of the country which have adopted the Department for Health and Social Care’s guidelines.

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Now, the leader of the council, Kay Cutts, has apologised for how the scheme was handled.

She said: “I don’t think my council handled it as well as it could have done, frankly, which is why we have taken the step back (by delaying the scheme).

“It is understood by everybody that young people with disabilities over the age of 24 and up to 65 can find some work outside their home to get a paid job, no matter how low that might be.

“But it is also recognised that there are some young people whose disabilities are so severe they cannot go out to work outside the home, and we need to make quite sure we have all of those looked at first and assessed first before we start saying to people ‘you will have to pay more.’

“I think it was badly handled, and I wish to apologise for that.

“But we still will have to find those savings so we’re simply taking a step back and taking more time over the savings.”

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The Labour leader at the county council, Councillor Alan Rhodes, said the policy needed to be reversed in full.

Councillor Rhodes, who represents the Worksop North ward, said: “They have treated some of the most vulnerable people in our county and their carers in a horrible way, and it’s caused huge anxiety and distress to the people affected.

“Any apology is welcome, but it’s been late in coming. I don’t think it goes far enough, and I don’t think it will be accepted by the people affected.

“I think delaying it just extends the agony. One hundred per cent of the money taken from these people should be paid back immediately, and they should be properly compensated for the anxiety and inconvenience this has caused.

“We will be seeking for the decision to be completely reversed, and not just delayed.”