Council urged to reverse cuts to disabled support services

Former WEST user Jack Yardley and his mother Joy Yardley. Both were present at the recent meeting.

Former WEST user Jack Yardley and his mother Joy Yardley. Both were present at the recent meeting.

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A campaign group has been formed to fight planned cuts to services for people with learning difficulties.

Save WEST has been launched by concerned family members and supporters of the Warwickshire Employment Support Team (WEST), which helps around 150 vulnerable people gain paid employment.

WEST could be closed by Warwickshire County Council in an effort to save £280,000 every year with a decision expected in December.

Adrian Edgington, a member of the campaign group and a former WEST employee, said: “People with learning disabilities and autism can play an active role in society with the right support.

“The county council wants to take away a service which has grown over decades and now supports more than 150 people.

“We’re urging parents, customers and supporters to join the Facebook group, contact their MP and put their views forward.”

A meeting for WEST’s users, their relatives and other interested people was chaired by the MP for Kenilworth and Southam Jeremy Wright on Friday September 16 at Jubilee House in Kenilworth.

People from all over Warwickshire came to the meeting, and all spoke very highly of the services WEST provides.

Mr Wright said: “I wanted to give those affected the opportunity to say what they thought of it.

“It was a very useful meeting and quite striking actually - it was very obvious from people’s views what a good job this organisation does.

“It’s sensible to look at making savings, of course it is, but not when the organisation does a very good job and adds a lot of value.

“If you were to then see increased costs to mental health then you haven’t made savings at all.

“We should be looking at this holistically and I think it’s important we get that message across - I hope they contribute well and make their thoughts known during the formal consultation.

“I hope the council reconsider but it’s their decision.”

One of those present at the meeting was Princethorpe resident Joy Yardley, whose son Jack is working as an apprentice thanks to WEST’s mentoring support.

Joy said: “It’s a pity that it took meeting with an MP to get our voices across, but it was brilliant that so many people had their say.

“Jack spoke up at the meeting and made a lot of valid points about how WEST has helped him - it was very touching.

“And if it closes that would be that. The users need to be able to live a normal life and WEST does that for them.”

County councillor Jose Compton said: “Sometimes, very difficult decisions have to be taken in order for the authority to deliver the savings that are required.

“However, we are confident that by maximising use of other provisions we can best meet people’s needs.”

The MP for Warwick and Leamington Chris White cited the possible cuts as a reason to support the creation of a unitary authority, which would replace the county, district and town councils.

He said: “I have been in regular discussions with councillors regarding the creation of a unitary authority and in recent months wrote to every local representative to seek their views.

“With the overwhelmingly positive response received, and the significant benefits to public services that can be achieved through this initiative, I call on local authorities to push on with discussions so that the benefits can be realised.

“Residents should be confident that public funds are being used in the most effective way and it is imperative that we examine this proposal in greater depth.”

Anyone wishing to express their views on WEST should visit askwarks.wordpress.com/2016/08/02/west-consultation by Friday September 30. The Facebook group for Save WEST is at facebook.com/savewccwest