Charities for disabled accuse Cornwall Council of 'culture of fear'

Cornwall Council
Image caption The charities claimed the council held "negative attitudes" towards those with disabilities

A "culture of fear" exists for disabled people in Cornwall, two charities say.

Disability Cornwall and East Cornwall Mencap claimed councillors and council officers held "negative attitudes" towards people with disabilities and were always trying to cut support.

Those affected were often scared to complain in case they were further discriminated against, they added.

The council said it took equality responsibilities "extremely seriously".

The charities claimed the council saw "disabled people as a burden on council budgets" because it was "permanently looking for ways to cuts costs" for support services the disabled depended on.

Reg Broad, from East Cornwall Mencap, said: "There is without doubt a culture that perceives that disabled children and adults cost the council too much."

He added that there was a culture of fear because the "majority of family carers [were] frightened of being discriminated against if they complain".

Steve Paget, from Disability Cornwall, said: "When people put forward complaints, they've either been minimised or ignored.

"Parents are frightened to push things too much. We need to get to the bottom of this. There's definitely a culture of fear."

The claims follow the resignation of a councillor who said disabled children should "be put down".

Independent councillor Collin Brewer, made the comment to a member of Disability Cornwall in 2011, saying disabled children cost the authority too much money.

His comment came to light following a report by the council's standards committee after Disability Cornwall made a formal complaint.

He resigned last week, saying: "I was wrong, I admit it. I will continue to apologise."

'Clumsy' word

It later emerged that the council portfolio holder for children's services was also the subject of a complaint following a comment he made at a meeting with the parent carers council in 2010.

Independent councillor Neil Burden told BBC News the comment was along the lines of "as medicine progresses more and more handicapped children survive".

He said he realised use of the word "handicapped" caused offence, but added he had been "clumsy" and had not employed it with "malicious intention".

The Conservative-Independent led council said it took its responsibilities "around equality and diversity extremely seriously".

It said: "The council is committed to ensuring that all staff and members receive appropriate training, and are fully aware of the importance of this issue."

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