You may have been moved by the recent BBC Panorama programmes on the struggles of people with disabilities and their families to get the social care they need in Somerset, and the council’s plans for further cuts.

The films powerfully demonstrate the impact that the lack of funding is having on adult social care and the desperate human cost.

At SeeAbility we provide support across many local authority areas (11 local authority areas for 57 funding authorities) and sadly the situation in Somerset is no different from other areas of the country.

At a time when adult social care is experiencing unprecedented cuts in spending and when support packages are being closely reviewed by councils and health bodies, SeeAbility is working harder than ever before to ensure the wants and needs of the people we support and families are paramount. A key focus is on providing the right level of support so that people gain skills to be more independent and are empowered to do things for themselves rather than become over-reliant on others.

We have a fantastic team of volunteers who support people to get the most out of life through meeting people for a chat, going for coffee (or even a beer), sharing enjoyment of music or books, and keeping fit. We have also worked hard to ensure people have friends in their lives, rather than just paid support. Almost all of the people we support now have unpaid support, which is a huge achievement.

Brian Robinson speaking with Brian Smith, one of the people supported by SeeAbility

Brian Robinson (pictured above on the right with Brian, someone we support) is our Director of Operations, and here he explains how he manages requests by councils and health bodies to review the support we give.

"Having worked in social care for 25 years, I can honestly say I’ve never seen the system under as much stress as it is now. At SeeAbility we’re calling for social care funding reform by the national government, but that doesn’t help the here and now, and we recognise that families of people we support are rightly concerned when a loved one’s support plan is singled out for review.

In these cases, we do all we can to work in partnership with the person, and their family to demonstrate why the support is needed and justified. I work closely with our four Regional Heads of Operations and each of our 26 services to create a unified understanding of what each person needs and wants, and we also build relationships with families, commissioners and with local funding bodies on the ground. This close understanding of people's needs means we’re well placed to negotiate on their behalf with local authorities who may be looking to reduce support hours.

Of course, if a person’s ambition is to reduce their support so they have more choice and control over their lives, SeeAbility works to support this too. Our ethos is all about supporting independence, and that’s why we have specialist services such as behaviour support, speech and language therapy and vision rehabilitation.

We want to deliver great outcomes for the people we support, and sometimes that move towards greater independence can lead to less of a need for our paid support. For funding bodies this is obviously a benefit too, but first and foremost its all about each person and their families and what they’d like from our support."