A former QMC nurse who had to leave his profession when he went blind has said he is being treated ‘like filth’, and that benefit cuts imposed on him and 862 other disabled people by the county council are ‘reducing him as a spirit and as a human being’
Hadyn Collins, 44, has been registered blind since 2003 and has severe psoriasis, arthritis, anxiety and depression.
He lost his job and his fiancee, and his mother died of cancer all in the same year he went blind. He suffered a nervous breakdown as a result.
Now, he also says he has been forced to increase his anti-depressants as a result of the stress caused by the county council’s cuts.
Nottinghamshire County Council decided last month to take more of the disability benefits from 862 disabled people, to pay for the care they receive.
With nine days’ notice, the amount Mr Collins has to pay towards his care has almost doubled, from £40 to £77.
He receives £15,000 in benefits a year, from which he must pay all bills, food, and taxi trips to the hospital several times a week. Now, the council’s change means he must also pay £4,000 a year towards his care.
The council says it consulted back in July, and the move brings them in line with other parts of the UK.
It also says it has to make savings due to a £54 million budget gap.
But Labour politicians have called the decision ‘unacceptable and immoral’, and one leading councillor described it as ‘organised cruelty’.
It is understood that the issue will be raised in Parliament in the coming days, and could be the subject of a judicial review.
Mr Collins said he was already struggling to pay the £40 a week he was previously being asked to pay, and that paying the £77 he will now be charged will ‘push him over the edge’.
He said for years, the county council had been criticising how he spent the ‘little spare money he had’, and that they had been trying to get ‘more and more money’ out of him.
He said: “The way they have treated me, they have pushed me and forced me into such a horrendous position that I don’t feel like a human being anymore.
“They are not interested on a human level. I just feel like I don’t have any quality of life anymore.
“I’m 44, and they expect me to sit around in my house all day until I die.
“They are meant to be there to care and look after people, but all they see is a number to cut.
“My situation is getting worse, because all they look at is facts and figures, and all they ever want to do is cut, and not help.”
“Shouldn’t the councils up and down the country be saying to the Government you are threatening people’s lives – elderly people, people with mental health problems, disabled people – are at threat. We are the most vulnerable people in the country, and we are paying the highest price.
“They are reducing me as a spirit. I don’t feel like a human being. They don’t care. They don’t worry a bit that they are making my life a misery.
“It is just organised cruelty on a massive scale.”
“I want other people who are going through this to speak up like I have and have their voice heard. This can’t go on.”
Martin Cater, from Arnold, worked for the council for 18 years but is now also being affected by the changes.
Now a pensioner, he cares for his 43-year-old profoundly disabled son, Stephen, who is quadriplegic, brain-damaged and has cerebral palsy.
With less than 48 hours’ notice, he was told that the fee for a day centre his son attends will rise from nothing to £39.30 a week, with new additional charges if Stephen eats lunch or uses transport.
He said: “The way they are doing it has been disgusting.
“They have allowed £20 a week for ‘disability-related expenditure’, but we spend that on washing powder for him alone.
“The letter arrived on Saturday saying that the changes were happening from Monday.
“So I called them on Monday, but they didn’t know anything about it and said they’d write me a letter, but they’ve still not done that.
“Obviously this is going to affect him. It means I won’t be able to take him out as much, but they just don’t give a damn.”
Vernon Coaker is the MP for Mr Collins and Mr Cater and represents Gedling for Labour.
He said: “The way in which people are being treated by Nottinghamshire County Council is unacceptable and immoral. In one case a constituent was given less than a week to financially adjust to a significant cut to his funding.
“There will be countless cases of people living in communities across the whole of Nottinghamshire who in less than a week are being expected to completely adjust their lives.
“Constituents have told me what these changes mean to them, it means not being able to leave the house to meet friends and family, it means not being able to go to the Day Centre, it means an elderly father caring for his disabled son has reduced respite, it means a poorer diet or not eating at all, it means being faced with tasks that they simply cannot do without help and support, it means falling into a spiral of debt when they do not have the funds for their vital care, it means being on their own, in isolation, away from their community that they rely on for their health and wellbeing.
“I cannot even begin to stress enough what impact this is going to have on people.
“I have asked the leader of Nottinghamshire County Council Councillor Kay Cutts to do the decent thing and reverse this policy.
Councillor Stuart Wallace is the chairman of the council’s social care committee and represents the Newark East ward for the Conservatives.
He said: “The council is always looking to provide good quality services more efficiently which will help address its £54m budget gap.
“As part of this, we’ve reviewed the way we seek contributions for adult social care services as we currently fund more of people’s care costs compared to many other English councils.
“This hasn’t been an easy decision, but we’ve agreed to take into account a person’s higher disability benefit rates and higher rates of income when deciding how much a person has to contribute as recommended by the Department for Health.
“We have consulted services users and have kept them informed of potential changes since July. We will support people affected by the changes to ensure their needs continue to be met and they are receiving all of their entitled benefits and allowances.
“We will also continue to provide the additional disability-related expenditure allowance of £20 a week and consider waiving charges for reasons of financial difficulty or hardship.
“This change has resulted in 58 per cent of service users making a contribution towards their care compared to the previous 46 per cent.”
Councillor Michael Payne represents the Arnold North ward for Labour.
He said: “What is happening is organised, calculated cruelty on a massive scale.
“It is utterly abhorrent of the Conservative county council to treat the most vulnerable people in society like this, without any decency whatsoever.
“The council needs to do the honourable thing and reverse this policy.”