Public services in Didcot are at breaking point and are struggling with a growing population after numerous financial cuts.

Didcot Against Austerity met to discuss how the community could help save public services in Didcot including health services, fire services and also children and youth services.

The group is part of the national organisation, the People’s Assembly Against Austerity which campaigns to end cuts to public services.

Carol Stavris is the co-convener of Didcot Against Austerity. She said, according to the South Oxford District website, the population of Didcot is expected to double to more than 62,000 people by 2031. The growing population could put increasing pressures on public services in the area.

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Steve Wright spoke at the Didcot Against Austerity meeting as a representative from the Fire Brigade Union. He said: “We’ve had a two per cent pay rise in 10 years, which in real terms is a pay cut. If you look at the pay of a professional firefighter with the skills it is pretty poor.”

He explained that it is not just their pay that has been cut but the amount of firefighters and fire trucks have also been cut across the country in recent years.

Chris Davis is a social worker in adult mental health in the NHS. He also had examples of how cuts have affected public services that are used by people in Didcot and across Oxfordshire.

He explained that often there are no beds in Oxfordshire for people in a mental health crisis which has resulted in people being discharged early. 

Oxford Health was contacted by this paper and said: "All discharges are clinically led. No patient is discharged before they are ready. If we are at capacity on inpatient wards, we will source a bed outside the area.
"We work hard to ensure local bed availability including twice daily meetings to facilitate timely admissions and discharges, alongside increased social worker time on wards to help those patients well enough to go home with continued support from our community mental health teams."

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Marie Walsh is the co-convener of Didcot Against Austerity. She suggested a minor injuries unit in Didcot could help take the pressures off health staff across the county in doctors surgeries and in A&E.

However, issues within services for children and the elderly in Didcot were also raised. Di Chesterman works for Didcot First and also previously owned a shop in the town.

She said: “My elderly customers used to tell me that the transport to the day-care centre had been cut as well as their hot meal.”

She added: “We used to have three children’s centres here in Didcot, those three children’s centres were subject to the cuts in 2016 and all three were closed. Didcot first are fighting to re-establish children’s services.”