CAB cannot replace the existing expert service

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It was refreshing to see in the Courier 21/02/12/,that Mr Hodgson had appreciated the help he had received from Calderdale DART, so much so that he organised a collection day at his place of work. It is great to see that some people want to give back in appreciation of the help they get.

However, to then read that DART are under threat of closure, due to the withdrawal of funding from Calderdale Council, was very disheartening.

I work in care services, and as such I am very familiar with the work that DART have done, and I cannot believe that our council have decided that after 25+ years of excellent service delivery, we no longer need DART in Calderdale.

I also understand the CAB have been given the contract to be the sole advice provider in the whole area.

Anyone who has had any dealings with DART, be it as a service user or supporting someone to access it, knows that the level of expertise and the skills of their workers is second to none. I simply don’t believe that the CAB can produce the same level of service specifically for disabled people. The CAB deliver some excellent services, debt advice; housing advice; consumer advice etc., but they need to leave disability advice to our established and well respected Disabled Advice Resource Team.

Our council should have understood this and funded both agencies to each do what they are best at.

Most of our client group have just gone through a very intense and time consuming reassessment of their inability to work. The forms are so complex that even as experienced carers, we could not complete them with our clients. We contacted DART but due to increased demand on their service they had a waiting list. A colleague of mine decided to seek help from Todmorden CAB to see if they could see us sooner. To our disgust CAB do not even assist with the completion of the new ‘fit for work assessment forms’ and instead gave us a self-help guide to do it ourselves, that we could have downloaded from the internet. If we had the skills and confidence to do the forms ourselves we would not have asked for their help.

Instead, we waited for DART, and got a face to face appointment with a Specialist Disability Advisor who worked through the questions with our clients until the form was done.

From 2013 every single person receiving DLA will need to apply to transfer to a new benefit. This will involve a 49 page form to be completed before they are assessed by a DWP Doctor.

There will be a significantly increased demand for the services of agencies like DART throughout this period of welfare reform.

Do our councillors truly believe that the CAB as sole advice provider will be able to cope with the demand? Will CAB offer home visits to those who find it difficult to get out because of disability or lack of access to transport? Will they attend Tribunal Hearings with people?

This type of service is time-consuming and requires great expertise. Do our councillors really believe that the CAB will do all that and for less money than they got last year?

Or like the rest of us, do they really suspect that the CAB will still be doling out their self help guides, whilst the agency that could and did offer this level of expert help has been pushed off into the sunset?

Geraldine Rushten; the Chair of Calderdale’s Disability Partnership, has publicly stated that disabled people do not want to lose DART.

She speaks for us all.

It is just a pity that no one seems to be listening.

Rachael Suthers

Todmorden