Angus GP hits out at council for axing Home Help service

Dr Kristien Hintjens
Dr Kristien Hintjens

A Montrose doctor has hit out at cuts Angus Council is making to its Home Help service which provides care at home for the elderly and disabled.

The council announced in April that, in a £755,000 cost-cutting move, the service will be axed at the end of October.

The users of the service will now receive Self-Directed Support (SDS) funding whereby they can choose how their support is provided within their individual budget.

Dr Kristien Hintjens, partner GP at Townhead Medical Practice based at the Links Health Centre, says she fears that with the loss of the service for “vulnerable” people of the community the care they receive won’t be able to be regulated because it will be provided by a third party.

More than 600 people in Angus are to be affected by the loss of the service and almost 45 full-time posts are involved.

Dr Hintjens said: “There is going to be a knock-on effect. I believe it will mean vulnerable people will no longer be able to stay in their homes.

“It is going to mean more people will be going into hospital and care homes. There are already 100 people in Angus on the waiting list for long-term care. They are going to become more vulnerable.

“There is a lack of long-term social provision in this area. Montrose is particularly bad for long-term care.

‘‘Most of them end up being looked after out of Montrose and one of my patients has just been moved to Brechin.

“The council is only looking at the short-term and not at the long-term effects cutting the service will mean.”

Dr Hintjens says she understands that a community laundry service in Brechin run by the council, which undertakes special cleaning requirements for people needing help in their homes, will also be axed.

She said: “There is no alternative in Angus to this service.

‘‘The council could charge the users a couple of pounds a week or tender it out, so the service can keep running.”

Review Gable Ender columnist Forbes Inglis, whose daughter, Ailsa, has Down’s Syndrome, also feels that the community has a moral obligation to support the less fortunate.

He said: “I am well aware of the need for economies in the current financial climate, it is the fact that these often seem to be directed at the more vulnerable members of society that concerns me.

“It is not only the elderly who are experiencing cuts in services. People with learning disabilities, who often have no one to speak on their behalf, have already suffered in this way with the closure of housing accommodation, for example Wirren House in Montrose, and day centres, such as Lunan Park in Friockheim, and I have no doubt there are further cuts to come.”

A council spokesperson said: “Current service users will receive a Self Directed Support (SDS) assessment and may choose to purchase home support through their SDS delivery package. Angus Council will not be a provider of home support from October 2015.

‘‘Discussions are ongoing between Angus Council and partners to explore the feasibility of home support being a social enterprise development following cessation of the council service.”