Leading article: Deep cuts have deep consequences

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The Independent Online

Celyn Vincent, a severely disabled six-year-old from Bristol, has become the face of the Government's cuts programme. Earlier this week Celyn's mother, Riven Vincent, posted a despairing message on the social networking website Mumsnet saying that she has asked social services to take her daughter into care.

Ms Vincent, who receives six hours a week respite care, contacted South Gloucestershire Council for more help but was told none was available. And now Ms Vincent has accused David Cameron, who paid her a personal visit during the general election campaign, of letting her family down.

This personalisation is somewhat unfair. The decision not to offer more respite care was taken by the local council, not the Prime Minister. Nevertheless, it is disingenuous for Mr Cameron to argue, as he did yesterday, that Ms Vincent's plight has nothing to do with the cuts that his Government is implementing. No area of central government spending was squeezed as brutally in the Comprehensive Spending Review as the grant to local councils.

Other families with disabled members are set to be hit by the spending cuts too. The Government is planning to scrap, by the end of next year, a benefit designed to help some 80,000 disabled people to get out of their residential homes. The Government argues that this is a duplication of funding because local authorities already pay care homes to meet residents' mobility needs. But charities and care providers dispute this and claim the lives of tens of thousands of disabled people will be made miserable through the removal of this benefit.

Mr Cameron says local councils, rather than ministers, are best placed to make decisions about the provision of local care. That is true. But ministers cannot cut council budgets so deeply and so fast (by up to 25 per cent in some cases) and then say that the resulting reductions in service provision are nothing to do with them. Mr Cameron found out this week that deep cuts have painful consequences.