Our regular ‘You tell us…’ feature on the SOS blog shares your experiences of the cuts in local services.
“I work at a service which provides support for people with learning disabilities. The service used to run as two care homes side by side. Each home had its own team to support four people, with a manager and assistant manager, to make sure the service always ran smoothly and met the needs of the individuals and the support staff.
“It was tough back then to keep up with the demands of government objectives, whilst trying to provide support for all the individuals in our care.
“But we were helped by the fact that most of our service users went to day centres to see their friends and take part in new activities. They had somewhere to go during the day that they enjoyed and didn’t cost much, which made it easier to afford the other aspects of life on the benefits they received. It also gave support staff time to update all the necessary paperwork, implement any new government initiatives and to develop our knowledge through training.
“Things weren’t perfect but were achievable for the most part. Although the stress of working with people who had complex needs was always an issue, we had enough time to complete what was asked of us.
“We were rewarded for our hard work with a salary that was slightly below the city’s average, which made living affordable and meant that we were able to enjoy our weekends, ready to start afresh the following week…
“Fast-forward to 2016. The two services are now one, run by a single manager, with no assistant.
“All the day services have now closed, with expensive specialised groups springing up in their place.
“The individuals we supported have lost contact with their friends and can now only afford to spend one or two days on activities. Many of our service users now do activities alone with a member of our support team, exchanging the old genuine friendships for paid ones.
“As support staff, we struggle to complete our work and new ways of filling out paperwork are introduced each month to try and solve the backlog of problems. We are scrutinised even more closely than before by governing authorities – now every service is seen as a potential case of abuse just waiting to happen.
“The pressures are staggering.
“After repeated restructuring, our pay has slipped back down to the lowest points on the salary scale. By cutting costs in every area possible, not only are those with learning disabilities now living dull, frustrating lives, but staff who support them are suffering too.
“Our salaries have fallen whilst the cost of living continues to rise.
“There is no time to educate ourselves and training is now online.
“We worry about how our service users are coping with welfare cuts and how to support them in the best way we can. New staff are thrown in at the deep-end as there is no room in the budget to induct them properly. Staff turnover is high whilst morale is at an all-time low. The cuts have shattered our enthusiasm and our mental health is suffering under the strain.
“We are increasingly faced with a heartbreaking choice – continue the valuable work we love and live with a 14% pay decrease since 2010, whilst the cost of living has sky-rocketed, or take a supermarket job so that we can afford to pay the rent?
“The care sector reached breaking point in 2010/2011 – those of us who decided to make a career in support work have been holding it together by the slimmest of fibres ever since. As it gets harder each year for staff to support themselves as well as their service users, our sector moves steadily towards devastation.”
Tell us about how cuts to services have affected you and your work in ‘Tell us your story’