A letter from Betty about Hampshire County Council’s Future Services Consultation

Important consultation - please read and respond by 31 March

Dear Winchester Go LD supporters and friends,

You may have seen in our recent newsletter a link to Hampshire County Council’s Future Services consultation. This is an important time for our learning disability community to speak up – the voices of our members and family carers need to be heard.

HCC is looking to save at least £132 million by April 2025. There is no doubt that their proposed cuts will affect Winchester Go LD and our members.

I urge you to read and complete the consultation. There is a lot of information to read through – please persevere! Hampshire County Council (HCC) have also produced a 131 page ‘accessible’ Easy Read version we feel it is far too long for most of our members to engage with (the recommended guidelines for an Easy Read document is no more than 20 pages).

The cuts are proposed at a time when our members and their families are already feeling the strain of an overwhelmed Adult Social Care sector. Our members are experiencing more and more gaps in local authority care provision; a significant portion of Winchester Go LD resources are being spent on plugging these gaps. The needs of our members and their families are growing rapidly. I am extremely proud of the Winchester Go LD team in our response to increased demand, however the strain of this increased pressure on our small team and on our finances is significant.

HCC is proposing service changes in 13 areas. Each in turn will affect you depending on your own individual position. You will be best placed to assess the impact of these on you and the people you support.

I’d like to bring to your attention the changes that would affect us collectively:

Adult Social Care grants

Winchester Go LD is not commissioned by our local authority. This means that we do not receive any regular income from HCC. We benefit from the HCC Adult Social Care grant scheme – for example, our successful Wellbeing project was part funded through a £10,000 Local Solutions Grant. Our limited resources are best spent working with and helping our members, not as time spent searching, applying and competing for new grants. As a small local charity, Winchester Go LD is extremely vulnerable to changes in our grant funding landscape. We receive over 65% of our income through various grants – there is no doubt that grant funding has become harder to secure. I cannot emphasise enough how the withdrawal of these HCC grants will negatively impact us.

Hampshire Cultural Trust grant

Winchester Go LD rents office space at The Arc which is managed by Hampshire Cultural Trust (HCT), we enjoy having access to our office 7 days a week. This location is ideal for us, based in the centre of Winchester, it is easily accessible by foot, bus and train. Our partners at HCT are friendly, supportive and welcoming to our members and The Arc provides us with a safe and social space.

Our popular weekly group activities – Tuesday Drop-In and Friday Funky Lunch take place in The Arc’s community space. This is a fantastic free facility where are members can be at the heart of our local community and where our work connects with members of the public.

We have already felt the pressure of reduced library opening times (since 2020), which means that our office is no longer available for evening work and for our evening Trustee meetings. I fear that a reduction in grant funding to the HCT could have a knock-on negative effect on our office space and our group activities.

Passenger Transport

Many Winchester Go LD members rely heavily on public transport to get around and to access services. Not all our members live in Winchester city centre; the bus and Dial-a-Ride, Taxishares, etc are key in connecting our members who live in rural parts of the district with work, volunteer roles, college, sport, activities and social groups. Reducing the public transport services available will disproportionately affect our members. Disabled Person’s Bus Pass holders would no longer be able to use their pass before 9.30am on weekdays. In particular, this will affect our members who use the bus to go to college or work. Companion Passes to allow for free travel for essential companions would no longer be available and bus passes would not be accepted on infrequent services between 9am and 9:30am.

Accessible public transport is essential for our members and for other vulnerable people in our community. Loneliness and lack of social engagement is a huge risk for people with learning disabilities; they must be helped to connect with their communities. These proposed changes would have a profoundly negative effect on some of our members’ wellbeing and it will inhibit their ability to thrive.

Please take the time to read through the consultation and respond to it, we need you to do your part in making all our voices to count.

With best wishes and many thanks,

Betty Chadwick
CEO of Winchester Go LD