Guest post from Nick Duquemin, Stories Assistant at Scope.
I spend a lot of my time interviewing disabled people and their families. Many use council-funded social care, and almost everyone I’ve met is worried about how cuts to services and funding are going to affect them.
When I arrive at Lesley’s home one Monday afternoon, her mum, Jan, tells me she isn’t home yet. Routine is very important for Lesley, 45, who has Down’s syndrome, and she couldn’t bear to miss a moment at the Goldhay Arts day centre in Peterborough.
Lesley’s been going to the centre five days a week for the whole of her adult life. She chose it because she loves to act, dance and do art, and it is her main source of social contact. She has friends there whom she has known for two decades.
Jan holds down two part-time jobs, which she fits around her daughter’s needs. Lesley gets frightened if she is left alone in the house for too long. Without day care, Jan would be unable to work.
But Lesley and Jan fear they will soon lose this lifeline. Peterborough City Council, which funds Lesley’s day care, currently supports people, like Lesley, whose needs have been assessed as ‘moderate’.
Now it plans to raise that threshold to a higher level, ‘substantial’, which means that only those with more urgent care needs will receive funding.
Lesley and her mum are worried she will lose her place at Goldhay Arts if she is reassessed as being of moderate need.
Jan has had to fight on countless occasions to make sure Lesley gets the care she needs, but she is dreading this latest battle. Worst of all is the uncertainty.
“You seem to hear a different thing every time you ask,” she says. “It could be that next week we get a letter saying she hasn’t got a place.”
Lesley arrives home and proudly shows me pictures of her family, including her dad and her stepdad, both of whom have passed away.
Then she brings down more photographs from upstairs – this time of herself, dressed up at the arts centre’s summer ball and performing in talent contests on holiday. Jan stresses that Lesley’s confidence comes from her time at day care, and Lesley agrees.
“All my friends would miss me if I’m not there, and I can’t make new friends. I’ve got lots of friends at Goldhay Arts; I’ve known some of them for 18 years,” she says.
I’d be bored, I hate staying in. I’d be sad – a lot. I’d be scared if anything goes wrong, because I love that place.”
Lesley’s day care gives her a link to the outside world, and it means she can live her life as she chooses.
Without it, she and Jan would feel very alone.
How do you use your social care? Share your stories on Twitter using the hashtag #WhatDoYouDoWithYours and follow other people’s stories.