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West Sussex Lib Dems slam Tory Censorship as Callous

by Press Officer on 16 October, 2012

Dr James Walsh, Deputy Group Leader and Health/Social Care spokesman, commenting on the Tory decision to ban a 5 minute video presentation by a severely disabled resident to the County Council on Friday said;

“This is a callous attempt to muzzle a local resident who cannot speak for more than a few seconds without using this pre-prepared video speech. The Tories do not want to hear the truth about their savage cuts to care services from one of the victims. They claim it would disrupt the start of the meeting, but this is nonsense as the screen and projector are already set up!”

“The council leadership is fond of claiming that they always listen to residents’ concerns, but this proves that to be a false and discriminatory claim. There are none so deaf as those who won’t listen.”
On Friday Liberal Democrats will be supporting attempts to use £1-2 million of the £175million the county has in total reserves to re-instate some of the cuts, especially to day services to the disabled and elderly.

Notes:

From the Don’t Cut Us Out Campaign

URGENT – WSCC bar vulnerable from contributing to debate about their future well-being

Dateline: 16th October 2012. In an unprecedented move to silence the elderly and disabled from speaking out about the crisis in care support that has followed the £31 million cuts to West Sussex County Council’s Adult Services budget, Senior Tory Councillors are attempting to bar a short video presentation exposing the cuts, during a special debate scheduled for County Hall, Chichester on Friday 19th October.  The debate, forced on the Council by a 5,000 strong petition organised by the Don’t Cut Us Out Campaign, was to be presented by Peter Adams, a severe Multiple Dystrophy sufferer who has lost £300 a week in care support.

Don’t Cut Us Out Campaigners requested on September 17 that a disabled person affected by the Cuts in Care, be allowed to use audio/visual aids to make an introductory 5 minute presentation to open the debate, which was accepted.  However, Senior Councillors got wind of the hard hitting nature of this video presentation, which sets out to expose the magnitude of the cuts in care, that Mike Coleman, Chairman of the WSCC decreed on October 3, that the video could not be shown  ‘as the preparations for this would be disruptive to other proceedings on the day.”

The ban was heavily criticised by national charities including Disability UK, MENCAP,  SCOPE and Action Duchenne  which supports people with Muscular Dystrophy.  Andy Soar, the Charity’s Campaign Officer, wrote to the Council saying ”

It is understood by Action Duchenne that Mr Peter Adams, a man with Muscular Dystrophy, will be unable to present his views via the use of visual aids.

To not allow people with severe disabilities to have their voices heard on issues which highly impact their quality of life, is very worrying.

Muscular Dystrophy severely hampers people’s ability to travel – with any trip taking a great deal of organisation. It also affects people’s ability to communicate in long, spoken presentations, given their breathing complications. Please be aware of the effort Mr Adams is putting in to speak to you about his experiences.”

SCOPE sought legal advice and were told that WSCC is obliged to make a reasonable adjustment,  that the DCUO proposed “adjustment” is reasonable, and that the Council would be in breach of the Equality Act if they refused to allow a disabled person to use simple audio/visual aids to address the Council.

James Hodge, the Regional Partnership Officer at Royal Mencap is equally disturbed by events. “We are shocked and appalled to hear of this late decision by WSCC. It can be very difficult for individuals with disabilities to present their case in person. They may find it impossible to travel to the meeting or need extra time to communicate their views clearly. Equality Law requires the Council to make reasonable adjustment in order to not put disabled people at a disadvantage. The video is a very reasonable adjustment to ensure that disabled people are not disadvantaged. Disabled people are constituents too” He said yesterday

On Tuesday 9th October,  WSCC reversed their ban, but three days later attempted to set such stringent restrictions on the video, suggesting that the subject matter can only be of “Mr Adams speaking and should not feature other people and cannot include words or representations about other people”

With just 3 days to go to the debate, Peter Adams from Bognor Regis, does not have the energy to re-make this video, and the disabled and elderly who have participated in the video refuse to allow their message to County Councillors to be censored in any way.

“This is a disgraceful abuse of power’ says Margaret Guest, a former Senior Care Manager within West Sussex County Council, and now Chairman of the Don’t Cut Us Out Campaign. “Nowhere within the Council’s Petitions Scheme does it state that audio/visual aids cannot be used to aid the disabled to address the Council, or limit the content of a video to the petitioner speaking. The presentation simply has to address the wording of the Petition. Senior officials within the Council must be so worried about what this video will reveal that they do not want Councillors to see it.

Yesterday, The Don’t Cut Us Out Campaign issued a robust response to the Council, refusing to allow the presentation to be censored in any way. If the Council do not relent a second time, then the video presentation will be released to the media at 00:00 hrs on Friday 19th October, ahead of the debate. – See all correspondence in date order below.

Demonstration/Debate on Friday 19th October

Don’t Cut Us Out is encouraging all those affected by the Cuts in Care to arrange to meet their County Councillor outside County Hall on Friday morning before the debate.

You can contact your Councillor and other Government representatives simply by typing your post code on the web site www.writetothem.com/

Councillors can be contacted, simply by typing in a home post code on the web site www.writetothem.com and requesting a meeting.

Hundreds of disabled and elderly are expected to attend the demonstration outside County Hall on Friday which starts at 09:15. Visitors can also follow the debate in the Council chamber from 10:30 to 11:10am.

For Information about WSCC’s Petition’s Scheme go to: www2.westsussex.gov.uk/ds/cttee/gov/gov281111i5.pdf

For information about the Equality Act, go to:  www.equalityhumanrights.com/advice-and-guidance/new-equality-act-guidance/equality-act-guidance-downloads/

For information about The Don’t Cut Us Out Campaign, go to: www.dontcutusout.org.uk

For further information and interviews, contact Barry Pickthall – Spokesman

Don’t Cut Us Out – Speaking out for the Vulnerable across West Sussex

Help Line: 01243 555561

Mobile: 07768 395719

dontcutusout@gmail.com

www.dontcutusout.org.uk

Bob Smytherman Lib Dem Media Co-ordinator
West Sussex County Council
T: 07867 562538
E: bob.smytherman@westsussex.gov.uk
W: http://bobsmytherman.mycouncillor.org.uk

Follow me on Twitter: @BSmytherman

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