The SASH campaign has been a moving experience and we are proud of its achievements. In December SASH did not even exist. By February we had a powerful campaign running, supported locally by Haringey Autism, the Carers Forum, Haringey People First, the Learning Disabilities Partnership Board and Autism Working Group service user, family and voluntary sector representatives, Haringey Alliance for Public Services and others. At national level, we have been supported by the National Autistic Society (which has made an immense contribution) and we have also received backing from Royal Mencap and the National Care and Support Alliance.
We have established our own website and our petition against Haringey cuts, circulated via 38 Degrees, won 7000 signatures. Our campaign has featured on numerous occasions in the local and national press, on BBC London radio and on the London evening news.
Local support for our campaign to save services for people with autism, learning disabilities and complex needs has been overwhelming. In our campaign against Haringey’s cuts, we attended every consultation event and organised lobbies, deputations and demonstrations at Council committees and public meetings. These events were enlivened by supporters young and old, carrying our distinctive placards and specially designed SASH banner. Service users and carers – some of whom had never spoken in public – made enormous efforts to put their case to council officials and councillors.
We have established SASH as a voice for people with special needs and their families in Haringey and we are determined that our campaign will continue.
Of course, we were disappointed that, in face of massive public opposition, Haringey Council voted in February to cut £24.5 million from the adult social care budget over the next three years – a bigger cut than any other Labour council in London. But we were delighted that we forced the Council to back down on plans to cut £5.7 million from care packages.
Unfortunately, the Council’s other plans – including proposals to close three of its four remaining day centres – were unanimously supported by Labour councillors at the February Council meeting. These plans include the closure of the dedicated autism service at Roundway, opened less than two years ago.
Though the budget has been approved, the detailed proposals in the Council’s corporate plan remain open to public consultation. We will campaign to protect vital services for the borough’s most vulnerable residents. We are continuing the struggle for high quality autism services on a number of fronts;
- Working with Haringey partnerships – When the cuts were leaked in December, parent, carer and voluntary sector representatives on the Learning Disability Partnership Board, the Autism Working Group and the Carers Forum withdrew from meetings with the Council. Expressing our loss of confidence and trust in the Council, we launched the SASH campaign. Following the Council’s endorsement of its austerity budget in February a period of formal consultation on each service will begin in June to be concluded in September. We will therefore resume our work in the partnership forums and participate in consultation on the future of services using every available opportunity.
- Campaigning across Haringey – Over the past few months, we have developed links with the campaign to save children’s services and we will be providing mutual support in the battles ahead. Like the children’s campaign, we have requested further meetings with the Council to press for details of their plans for specific services. In the service specific consultations we will continue to offer support to all carers and service users at Roundway which is under immediate threat of closure.
- Campaigning across London – With support from Royal Mencap, the Care and Support Alliance and the National Autistic Society, we have initiated a wider campaign against adult social care cuts across the capital. We have already held meetings with families and carers facing similar challenges in Barnet, Camden, Enfield, Ealing, Lewisham, Bromley and Harrow.
- Desk-top review – In response to requests submitted under the Freedom of Information Act, Haringey Council has now, despite its earlier refusals, provided limited details of the ‘desk-top review’ of the ‘reablement potential’ of a 5% sample of service users, which officers claimed provided evidence justifying its plans for budget cuts. Though this information falls far short of making the desk-top review transparent to service users, families and carers, it suggests that Council policy rests on a woefully inadequate evidence base. In the quest to clarify this matter, we have submitted a further FoIA request.
- General Election hustings – SASH supporters have been attending election hustings to raise the imminent threats to social care services in both Haringey constituencies (Hornsey and Wood Green, Tottenham). We have asked questions from the floor, and challenged candidates and parties on their past records and manifesto pledges. We have received strong support from voters and recognition for our campaign from Gordon Peters, Jenny Sutton, David Lammy, Lynne Featherstone and Catherine West (who has offered to arrange a further meeting with leading Haringey councillors).
Whatever the outcome of the General Election, it is clear that the battle to defend services for people with complex needs in Haringey is set to continue.