21 October 2018   |  Last Updated 21-12-2014 09:48

      Friday 19, December 2014

      Salford pair set up SEARCH committee

      Two Salford women have set up a new committee named SEARCH (Seeking, Empowerment, Advocacy, Rewards, and Challenges) due to their involvement with Salford City Council with regard to cuts to transport for the disabled.


      Norma Parkinson Green (above right) and Noreen Bailey (above left) chaired the committee’s first meeting in Little Hulton last week alongside Labour Councillor Peter Wheeler, on the eve of the Royal Courts of Justice appeal against Salford Council cutting transport for disabled adults.


      Norma and Noreen have both been involved directly in transport in the City of Salford for people with disabilities, and they have set the committee to help the carers of the most vulnerable.


      ‘‘We realise there are so many people in the community, particularly parents and carers, who are not benefitting from all these changes and they are really weary, particularly now that the Council has taken away funding for transport. Many have to take people to day centres and respite themselves, and many are elderly carers,’’ said Norma.


      ‘‘Some people have had to give up their employment to ensure people get to their centre. So from the knowledge we have we decided to set up a group to help people with disabilities and the elderly.


      "We want people to come along to meetings to talk about the way they feel and how we can help them challenge services, by directing them to Healthwatch.


      ‘‘We know that the cuts that are coming next year will hurt families even more, so what we want is to work together with services to try and cushion the impact,’’ says Norma.


      Noreen first launched a petition to scrap the cuts in February of this year, but it has been a long and weary battle against the council in the courts since then.


      Michael Robson, a disabled man from Swinton, won a judicial review against the cuts to subsidise transport for 200 adults in September, but in October the judge Stephen Davies sided with the Council, ruling that the service could be withdrawn.


      However, Irwin and Mitchell, the law firm that represent Michael and Jennifer Barrett, have taken the appeal to the Royal Courts of Justice in London, with a result expected in January.


      ‘‘We’re saying yes there are cuts to be made because Labour spent too much, but Mayor Ian Stewart always said that he’d make sure the vulnerable were the last people to have cuts, but they’ve been the first basically,’’ says Norma.


      Over 26 people attended the first meeting to discuss problems they were facing, but the committee is not just there for support over transport cuts, it is also in place to assist the elderly and the disabled when further cuts possibly come into place.


      ‘‘One Mum who has two disabled sons explained at the meeting that she was having difficulty getting one of her sons to the day centre because her other son who is disabled is also at home. She said when she informed Social Services she was told "leave your son on the bed while you take your other son to the day centre, this Mum was distressed and at a loss as what to do next,’’ explained Norma.


      Both Noreen and Norma have personal reasons to challenge the cuts, Noreen supports two young men who both use wheelchairs and another with autism and Norma has a daughter who has learning disabilities.


      ‘‘I’m 66 and John (Noreen’s husband) is 68 and he’s not in good health. He had bowel cancer a few years ago and now he suffers with his chest quite bad. But we’re still having to get up every morning to take the lads out, get them in the van, take them to the day centre, then afternoon again to get them back home, and it is really making is so weary,’’ says Noreen.


      ‘‘According to some carers and individuals, assessments were not always carried out before people were being taken off transport and the Council did not consult with all the people that would be affected by the transport changes, unfortunately many people did not know about the changes until it was happening" said Norma.


      But despite the lack of communication at the time, Norma and Noreen are both willing to work with the Council in the future with regard to further cuts being implemented.


      ‘‘Many people are unable to verbally communicate their wishes and some are too weary and frightened to complain, hopefully this is where our role will come in to speak on their behalf. It's not a case of shouting but hopefully working together for the good of the community,’’ said Noreen.


      Salford Council were unable to comment this week, but on October 23rd, after the High Court Judge dismissed the judicial review brought against them, Strategic Director for Community, Health and Social Care Sue Lightup said they were ‘pleased’ that the judge recognised that they had carried out assessments properly and dismissed the claimants’ challenge.


      The council admitted it was a difficult decision to make but with £118 million in cuts since 2010 they had ''no choice but to review every service and try to find alternative ways of meeting people's needs.''


      ‘‘We have been monitoring attendance at day centers carefully since the changes came in and are satisfied that it has not dropped.’’

      By Jack Gordon-Brown