Lancashire County Council budget: protesters defend value of public health and children's services which could be scrapped

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Dozens of people gathered outside County Hall ahead of Lancashire County Council’s annual budget meeting to protest at planned cuts to public health and children’s services.

The proposal to cancel the Lancashire and Health and Wellbeing Service (LHWS) was the focus of several placards. The service - whose future is currently the subject of public consultation - provides early intervention for those with low-level social and health issues

Paul Graham

Paul Graham

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Paul Graham, a public governor at Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust - but speaking in a personal capacity - said the suggestion to scrap the service was a false economy.

“If something like that is cut, it will impact on other areas like the NHS,” he said.

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Protest at County Hall

Protest at County Hall

“If you don’t help people that have special challenges - whether that be mental health problems, alcoholism, drug addiction or disability - they can’t become productive members of society. And productive members of society don’t only lead a fulfilled life, they contribute to the economy.

“It’s [going to affect] vulnerable people who don’t have a voice,” he added.

Len Hodson, who has been deaf for most of his life, said he had personally benefited from the LHWS. The organisation - which is operated on behalf of the county council by three charities - provides a dedicated assistant to help deaf people across Lancashire access services.

If [that support] stops, it will be much worse for the deaf - they will be on their own, isolated and lonely,” Mr. Hodson said.

Len Hodson

Len Hodson

Meanwhile, plans to end a short break service for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities also attracted attention.

Zoe Duckworth runs the Preston branch of the Play Inclusion Project, which provides respite care as part of the council-funded Lancashire Breaktime Service. She said some of the children who attend her group need specialist support that is not offered elsewhere.

“Lancashire breaktime is our main funding, so if that goes, all our services go. We have children with epilepsy who can’t go to mainstream groups because they need their medications. Then there are some who might need personal care as well,” Zoe said.

It’s respire for parents, too - they might get to go shopping, because it’s too overwhelming for their child to go with them. It gives that parent the chance to just do regular things.”

Ruby May-Jones and Zoe Duckworth

Ruby May-Jones and Zoe Duckworth

A public consultation into the future of the Lancashire Breaktime service is also under way.