Well, what week that was in the world of learning disabilities.
On Tuesday, March 15, I attended a conference on safeguarding in residential settings discussing with people and key agencies from health and social services. There were stands from Mencap on wills and trusts and an organisation that is thinking outside the box called Talking Mats.
The Budget was the centrepiece of the week and Chancellor George Osborne delivered his financial goals, including ramping up the eligibility criteria for Personal Independence Payments. However, Osborne also announced measures that would give increase the threshold for paying the top rate of tax. Inevitably, Twitter and Facebook went into a frenzy, and there was anger not just from disabled people but from financial expects on BBC news and other MPs saying it was simply a step too far.
There then followed the resignation of Iain Duncan Smith from the Department of Work & Pensions in protest, so Osborne had to quickly come up with a plan B.
Osborne reigned back on the plans to change eligibility criteria, and also said there would be no new benefit cuts in this Parliament. Besides, various financial experts said that had the government pushed through the measure, it wouldn’t have saved that much anyway.
My sense is that although the government says more cuts are off the table for the rest of this Parliament, I am not sure those of us who claim benefits can rest easy. For one, there are still the cuts and changes that have been previously announced, which will continue to impact in the future. Then I suspect there will be another fight on welfare in the future. The government has form on saying one thing – for example, ‘we are in this together’ – but then keep on hitting people with a learning disability and others with cuts. So I guess watch this space
On Friday, there was a conference where leaders in the field talked about how we transform the lives of people with learning disabilities. Among the highlights was the National Development Team for Inclusion’s chief, Rob Greig, talking in a session on employment suggesting that perhaps more people with learning disability could work – about 6% are in paid employment currently – but those in the sector don’t help those who could enough.
It was an interesting week with lots of themes to digest, and announcements that will have an effect over the coming months and years until 2020.