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Swingeing cuts to debt advice services in Northamptonshire are to be made according to a County Council report  -  despite the rising number of people with money problems.

 And the changes will not go out to public consultation or to councillors for decision - because the report says that authority has already been delegated to a council official to make the changes.

Sally Keeble has slated the changes and said that the report should go to a council meeting so that it can be debated and the decision made by councillors. The County is planning to scrap the entire £240,000 funding for charities that provide money and debt advice.

The review of debt advice services recommends that:

- the Value of the work should be cut from £240,000 to £150,000

- the money should be divided up between the district and borough councils - with £10,000 to be held back for reserves.

"It is noted that the Cabinet report was consulted on. No further consultation on the delegated decision is required," the report says.

Meanwhile, £1,000,000 left in the Social Fund - which is supposed to help families in desperate need - is to be spent on one-off training of 3,000money advisers across the County.

The changes are due to come into place in October - allowing little time to adjust for the existing agencies which include Community Law Service in Northampton and five of the County's CABs, providing services by phone, face to face and through home visits.  In total they provided advice for 5,025 people across Northamptonshire, claimed £6,878,192 in benefits for clients, managed £11,183,722 worth of debt and helped 622 people with court and tribunal hearings.

The ending of the existing arrangements was due to be told to the local agencies that currently provide money advice by mid July, with their contracts ending and the new arrangements coming into place in October.

Sally Keeble said: "At a time when people are struggling to manage debt and benefit changes, this strategy makes no sense. The cuts in voluntary sector funding threatens an expert and specialist service that is very highly regarded.

"It's a big and controversial decision with far-reaching implications. So it is completely wrong that it should be left to an unelected official to take and implement over the summer holidays. It will affected people in every part of the County, and councillors should have their say.

"Meanwhile what's left of the Social Fund, which is supposed to help people in real emergency, is being used instead for basic training. Yet this basic training will not be enough to deal with complex and specialist cases," Sally said.

 

Swingeing cuts to advice services in secret Northants County Council Report

Swingeing cuts to debt advice services in Northamptonshire are to be made according to a County Council report  -  despite the rising number of people with money problems.

steps250.jpgSally Keeble has called on Network Rail to provide assurances about the main entrance to Northampton's new railway station after concerns over the lack of step-free access.

Her call comes after repeated requests for a ramp at the front entrance and extra stairs or escalators at the rear to reach the first floor ticketing hall of the striking new building which is nearing completing at Black Lion Hill.

Rail campaigners in Northampton have repeatedly queried the access arrangements for the station since the plans for the new building were first released. The building is a dramatic improvement on the existing station, but further work is needed on the access.

Sally has written to Network Rail setting out the problems and asking for an urgent response as the station is due to open in September.

She says: "The new station is a prestigious development for the town. However, the main pedestrian entrance off Black Lion Hill currently appears to be up a flight of about 13 to 15 steps. At the rear of the building there is a staircase and a small lift. This is inadequate for the many people who have restricted mobility due to disability, or because they are carrying luggage or children. There have been requests for a ramp, or for an extra staircase or escalators at the rear, but so far assurances on this have not been forthcoming.

"With the opening due soon, we need a speedy response from Network Rail. The station is an important development for the town, and the public access needs to be right."

A third access point for people arriving by car will be via a walkway from the first floor of a multi-story carpark which is currently at the planning stage and due to open next year.

The development of the station is led by a partnership led by Network Rail, Northamptonshire County Council and Northampton Borough Council, with the Government providing £10 million of the funding.

 

Sally calls for assurances on public access to Northampton's new railway station

Sally Keeble has called on Network Rail to provide assurances about the main entrance to Northampton's new railway station after concerns over the lack of step-free access.

Bev200.jpgSally Keeble has condemned as thoughtless and hard-hearted the Government's response to the parliamentary debate on disability housing by Gavin Shuker MP, in which he called for a review of housing for the most vulnerable people.

And she set out the call for a review to make sure that people with profound physical impairments and learning difficulties are able to exercise choice in housing, including remaining in the places, like Hampton House, in Lumbertubs, Northampton, that have been their homes for decades.

Three people with disabilities attended the debate, along with about 25 family members and friends, and afterwards they expressed dismay about the Minister's response.

In his debate in Parliament, Gavin Shuker MP for Luton South and for Mrs Holmes whose daughter lives in Hampton House, set out the impending crisis as charities and companies shut their residential care homes for very vulnerable people who will need constant care throughout their lives. He said that while some people may want to live in more independent housing in the community, some did not, and he called on the Government to intervene to ensure that people were not forced out of their homes.

But responding to the debate, Norman Lamb MP, a health minister, reiterated assurances the Department of Health had been given by Scope, including some which were seriously misleading and hurtful to residents. There were audible gasps of dismay in the public gallery as the families heard some of the Government minister's comments.

Sally said: "Gavin Shuker is following up with the minister the matter of these very misleading remarks that were so hurtful to people who had travelled a long way to attend the debate - one family travelled up from Devon.  The Government accepted and repeated statements from Scope that bore no relation to the families' experience, and it is important that the Government has accurate information.

"Meanwhile the Government must address the wider issue of the impending crisis in residential care for people with profound physical impairments and learning difficulties so that they can have security and dignity in their lives."

You can support the Hampton House residents and the call for the review by signing here.

Sally slates Government response to Hampton House residents request for a review

Sally Keeble has condemned as thoughtless and hard-hearted the Government's response to the parliamentary debate on disability housing by Gavin Shuker MP, in which he called for a review of housing...

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