Blind persons' support officer post is axed by Sefton's Tories a

Bill Esterson and Colin Hughes

Sefton Central Labour MP Bill Esterson has met with the leader of a blind person's support group in Sefton who say the council cuts have gone too far after it was announced that the borough's one support officer had been axed.

Sefton Consultation Group, which looks after the concerns of blind and visually impaired people in the borough, say they are shocked that the Eye Clinic Liaison Officer has fallen victim to the cuts.

Group chairman, Colin Hughes from Maghull, told Bill Esterson the impact of the cut has not been fully considered.

Colin said: "The Eye Clinic Liaison Officer was a position that was created seven years ago. Although it was created as a short term 12 month contract, it was quickly realised that the service the officer provided was invaluable so it was extended.

"But now the contract has been scheduled for termination in April.

"You can imagine the shock when people are told they are registered blind, or they are losing their sight and will never see again.

"The Eye Clinic Liaison Officer is the first point of contact. The officer is there at the time and can speak to them and give them advice and also work with the rehabilitation officers.

"Since the post was created we have seen major improvements in how people are dealt with. Previously people went for months without being contacted by anyone. The waiting list was getting longer and longer.

"But with the creation of the liaison officer post, there was someone there to help people when they needed it - from the point they are given the bad news.

"The liaison officer does lots to help make the system work. Without that post, the system will go back to how it was with lengthy waiting lists and people not being contacted for months.  We can't go back to that."

Colin, 72, a retired former primary school teacher who himself has been registered blind since he was a teenager, told the Labour MP that the first Sefton Consultation Group heard of the cut after the announcement had been made.

Colin said: "We were told on Wednesday that the post was going with no prior warning.

"I've sent an email to Sefton Council chief executive Margaret Carney and some of the officers involved to make clear what impact the decision to axe this post will have. There are hundreds of people who have been helped by the eye clinic liaison officer.

"I can't understand why no one from Sefton came to us in advance of this decision being made. There was no consultation with the people who use the service and particularly with the group  that use the service.

"I would appeal to the councillors to reverse this decision. This post is of immense value to blind people in Sefton."

Bill said the decision to axe the eye liaison officer post was clearly ill-advised.

Bill said: "In the 20 years that Sefton Consultation Group has been set up, it has helped hundreds of blind people in the borough and has been a constant source of support and expertise. Why the council didn't turn to the group before making this decision is beyond me.

"It is an example of the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats rushing headlong into making cuts without thinking through the full implications.

"Considering that Sefton Consultation Group works with Sefton Council, it baffles me why the first Colin and his colleagues heard of this cut was after the announcement had been made.

"I know the Tories and Lib Dems on Sefton council are eager to do their national party's bidding, but they must consider the human cost. I have written to the council to ask what provision will be provided now this post has been axed.

"As Colin said we cannot go back to the days when people were waiting months for support after being told they are registered blind. But that is exactly what will happen if this cut is made.

"Yet again with these Conservative-Liberal Democrat cuts, it is the most vulnerable who are being hit the hardest."

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