Husband raises concerns as Lancashire County Council plans to slash his hours as full-time carer

CARER: Curtis Philips cares for his wife Katie full time but Lancashire County Council are now reducing his hours.

CARER: Curtis Philips cares for his wife Katie full time but Lancashire County Council are now reducing his hours.

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When Katie Philips picked up an infection working as a nurse on a busy children’s ward, little did she know how dramatically her life would change.

She battled for four weeks in a coma, suffering permanent brain damage that has left her unable to read or write, as well as developing epilepsy, problems with balance, incontinence and personal care.

In a bid to keep her out of a nursing home, husband Curtis, 62, gave up his job as a security guard to care for her full time at home.

Since 2011, the couple, of The Green, Ribbleton, just about managed to cover the bills and the mortgage, with Mr Philips paid 60 hours a week as a carer, plus eight hours of respite care allowance.

But following the visit of a social worker last week, he claims he was told this will now be cut to 42 hours a week because his wife’s condition has been assessed as having improved.

It comes days after Lancashire County Council announced it was facing a £92m shortfall in its social care budget, but county hall bosses claim this is unrelated.

They say no final decision has been made on Mrs Philips’ case and it is part of a routine review of support needed by individuals on an ongoing basis.

“It came out of the blue”, said Mr Philips, 62.

“The social worker came round and was putting it across like it was a kind thing to do for me. But they’re not reducing the amount of care I’m needed to do, just what they will pay me for it.

“I don’t want my wife to go into a home, and I’m saving them (LCC) an absolute fortune by caring for her myself – it would be £1,000 a week in a home.

“Although there is a slight improvement in her outlook, the neurologist said that she may have good or bad days but the brain damage is permanent and will not get better.

“She has fits so severe that they could kill her.

“But as as a consequence of them reducing my wife’s funding I will not be able to meet my financial outgoings, including my mortgage, so I will have to go back to work as a security guard to pay the bills.

“Security is a low paid job and in order to meet my outgoings I will have to work at least 72 hours per week. The amount that the social worker has said that will now pay for is 42 hours. That means that there will be 30 hours where my wife will be on her own and if she has a fit during that time she could be in a life threatening situation.

“I had to leave her once before for nights on security and I came home and she’d had a couple of fits already and I didn’t know how long they’d been going on for. After that she had nine fits in 12 hours.

“So I’m being forced into a situation. I’m not going to leave my wife at home to die, I’ll have to sell my house. I am 62 years old, I left school at 15 years old. I have worked hard all my working life and so has my wife up until her illness. I feel like I have been let down and betrayed by the Government that I have paid a fortune into in tax and insurance for 43 years.”

Tony Pounder, Lancashire County Council’s director of adult social care, said: “No decision has yet been made about the ongoing care Mr and Mrs Philips receive.

“We’re currently visiting everyone receiving social care across the county who has not been assessed in the last 12 months to check they are getting an appropriate level of care to support them. This review is part of that ongoing process.

“Once an assessment has been completed, the social worker recommends what level of support people need, with the number of hours of care provided being based on the criteria which is used by the county council. At this stage, our discussions with Mr and Mrs Philips about their support plan are ongoing and options are still being considered.”

KATIE’S STORY

CURTIS Philips was told to say goodbye to wife Katie four times after she became seriously ill with a chest infection.

The former paediatrics nurse was put on a life support machine at the Royal Preston Hospital after her condition deteriorated rapidly, with doctors battling to save her life.

Her kidneys and liver had stopped working and a brain scan showed signs of significant damage. Doctors told her devastated family her chances of survival were slim.

The specialists said that if Katie’s liver had not started working by the Saturday, her body would be gradually poisoned by toxins, so it was decided that they would switch off the life support machine.

Hours before the switch was flicked, Curtis went to tell Katie he loved her, and a doctor came in to ask if his wife was stubborn.

He said: “When I replied Oh yes’, he told me she was going to need to be as her kidneys and liver had started working again.

“He then told me that while there was hope, they were not going to switch the machine off.

“It was such a huge relief for me, Katie’s parents and her two brothers.

“One moment, we thought we were going to lose her and suddenly there was this massive turnaround.

“It was a miracle.”

Although Katie’s liver and kidneys were kicking back in, she remained in a coma and a couple of weeks later, doctors once again told her heartbroken family that they were planning to turn the life support off as the machines were doing everything for her.

Just an hour before the machines were turned off, Curt was sitting with Katie holding her hand and talking to her when she suddenly opened her eyes.

Curtis, who has two children from previous relationships, said: “Katie pulled through literally in the final hour. I saw her eyes open as tiny slits and asked her if she could see me and she nodded.

“I went to the waiting room and told her father she was awake and he looked at me with pity as though I had lost it. But thankfully, it was true.”

Katie almost lost her life on another two occasions but each time she proved the doctors wrong and pulled through.

After four weeks in a coma in intensive care, Katie recovered enough to be transferred to a ward and then to the neuro-rehabilitation unit where she had to be re-taught everything from walking to eating.

FUNDING BLACK HOLE OF £92 MILLION

LANCASHIRE County Council has announced that by 2021 it will be facing a social care funding blackhole of £92m.

The ageing population, recruitment difficulties and rising cost of services have combined to spark a red alert over the future of care, raising fears key services could be at risk.

The news follows a revelation that last year saw a shock increase of more than 50 per cent in the number of grievances registered with the county council.

Complaints were up by 25 per cent in adult social care and a staggering 88 per cent in children’s cases - a trend which County Hall chiefs fear they will not be able to stem without financial help from the Government.

Former chancellor George Osborne announced last year that town halls would be permitted to add a two per cent “social care precept” onto bills to raise £2 billion a year to help deal with the growing crisis in the sector.

But Lancashire County Council claims that this rise would fall far short of addressing the financial gap for adult social care.

Responding to similar calls from across the country, this week the Government announced local authorities are to be allowed to bring forward council tax increases totalling six per cent over the next two years to pay for social care.

The government also announced that councils would receive a share of a new £240m national funding pot to help fund social care over the next year.

County Councillor David Borrow, deputy leader of Lancashire County Council, said: “This week’s announcement leaves Lancashire in no better position than we have been forecasting, and actually by 2020/21 we could have an additional gap of over £8m on top of the £146m currently forecast. This is because the funding gap identified in our existing forecasts had already allowed for council tax increases of 3.99% every year for the next four years, including the maximum 2% per year precept allowed to help fund social care. The government has announced that we can increase the social care precept from 2% to 3% in 2017-18, but can still only raise it by 6% over three years, and potentially no increase in 2020/21, which means we still predict a shortfall of well over £90m in funding for adult social care by 2020/21.”