Six centres that offer disabled people advice on independent living equipment are set to close in April because their council funding has been withdrawn.
Campaigners say the decisions to close the Disabled Living Centres – all in England – are the latest examples of how government spending cuts are affecting disabled people’s ability to live independently.
Alan Norton, chief executive of Assist UK, which leads the national network of Disabled Living Centres – with 46 in England – said he was “really concerned” about the closures and was surveying his members to discover if other centres were under threat.
He said: “There is often no other way of getting a free, impartial assessment of equipment. If these centres shut, disabled people will be left at the mercy of the market.”
The news came as the Office of Fair Trading said it was launching an investigation into the mobility aids market.
The study will start early next year and examine whether consumers have access to the right information and are being treated fairly by retailers of aids such as wheelchairs, scooters, hoists and bath aids.
The OFT said there were widespread concerns that the sector was “not working well for consumers”, causing higher prices and less choice, with disabled people often buying products that fail to meet their needs.
Nearly 5,000 calls were made last year – an increase of 20 per cent – to complain or seek advice about mobility aids to Consumer Direct, the OFT’s advice service, with most complaints about defective products, customer service, high-pressure selling and misleading advertising.