Disabled Essex woman's fight for 'dignity' after being told to use incontinence pads after care cuts

  • Sophie Weaver tells ITV News Anglia reporter Charlie Frost the care cuts have left her vulnerable.

A disabled woman from Essex is fighting for her "dignity" after the council cut her 24-hour care and told her to buy incontinence products if she needs to use the toilet by herself.

Sophie Weaver, 53, from West Mersea, has a rare form of arthritis called Stills disease and relies on personal assistants to help her do everyday tasks such as getting out of bed and using the bathroom.

She lives alone and has 24-hour care, but in March this is being cut to just 15 hours by Essex County Council, following her annual needs assessment.

It would mean she gets seven hours of support during the day, and eight during the night.

The decision, which was made in November last year, left the West Mersea Town Councillor with suicidal thoughts.

"I felt like my life is over," she said. "The life that I know is going, and I was gutted. I thought, this is not a life I want to live.

"You may be left with two or three hours a day to do what you do outside of just getting up, getting dressed, getting washed...

"Could anyone live their life in seven hours instead of 16 of the day? I don't think they could. But that's what I'm facing.

"My liberty as a person to decide when I want to go out, that's under threat.

"And that's why I felt so hopeless about the situation, if I'm being honest, it's really scary.

“I really have to have help with everything. From getting up in the morning and getting in and out of bed, transferring from my wheelchair to the toilet, having a shower.

"Any everyday tasks that everyone does and takes for granted, I need help with."

Sophie Weaver from West Mersea in Essex is appealing the council's decision to reduce her 24-hour care to just 15 hours. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Ms Weaver appealed the council's decision to cut her round-the-clock care, but on February 14th she was told her appeal had failed.

She was sent a letter from the council with suggestions on how she could cope with tasks such as going to the toilet when she does not have care.

The letter read: "Continence products could be a means of meeting this need outside the support in place. But toileting in itself is not a requirement for 24-hour care."

Ms Weaver said: "As someone who is not incontinent, it just feels like my whole dignity is being taken away.

"I cannot imagine being like that, you know, and I understand that some people have conditions where that is their normal, but where it's not, I shouldn't be made to be more disabled than what I am."

Ms Weaver, who is a disability access consultant, she she is anxious and now on anti-depressants.

She is speaking out to try to help others in the same situation.

"It's an uncomfortable thing to do to share your very personal parts of your life with the general public," she said. "But I do feel it's important for people to know the reality of things.

"For disabled people, we fight so much to be considered on an equal level as other people, rather than lesser or less than normal or equal.

"And although things have improved a great deal over the years, things like this are making me feel. How far have we come? We're actually going backwards."

Sophie Weaver was diagnosed with a rare form of arthritis called Stills disease when she was six years old. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Ms Weaver is trying to appeal the decision again before the change comes in on March 6th. The cuts will save the council around £600 a week.

An Essex County Council spokesperson said: “We understand how unsettling any proposed changes to existing care support can be, and do all we can to understand and minimise the impact this may have on the person.

"We work closely with those who are affected to ensure they continue to receive the level of support they need.

“Changes in care and support are only made when there has been a full review of the person’s needs that ensures we have fully understood their individual circumstances and personal views.

"When it is appropriate to do so there may be a plan for phasing-in any changes to ensure that they are working well before moving to the next stage.

"In taking this approach we will always support the person throughout the process.”