Learning disability charities have hit out at the Government after the Spring Budget announcement failed to tackle the big issues facing disabled people such as poverty, lack of social care and barriers to employment.

Disability Rights UK said that with the National Disability Strategy soon to be published, it is seriously worrying that the Government didn’t do anything to address these problems or offer any additional support to social care despite the system being chronically under-funded and disabled people not receiving adequate levels of care and support.

Hft, the national charity supporting adults with learning disabilities, added that the lack of additional financial support to social care was even more of a shock coming as it does at the end of an extraordinarily challenging year, which has seen social care staff working tirelessly on the frontline throughout the pandemic to support some of our most vulnerable adults in society.

Kirsty Matthews, Chief Executive of Hft, said: "The budget marks another missed opportunity to address the financial challenges the sector has been facing for many years, including the continued underfunding of increases to the National Living Wage which impacts on all providers’ ability to recruit and retain these key members of staff.

"We urge the government to take action now and recognise the efforts of a sector all too often considered an afterthought. There has never been a more appropriate time to address the needs of a beleaguered but vital social care sector, by bringing forward the long-term funding proposals which have been promised on so many occasions.”

Harnessing the potential of everyone in society

Learning disability charity United Response said that even during our darkest hours, good social care must be about much more than keeping people alive and looking after their needs. It must be about equipping people to live the best lives possible, investing in resources and harnessing the potential of everyone in society.

Sarah Battershall, Director of Quality and Practice Development, added: “Public services like social care have been the backbone of our country’s day-to-day response to this awful virus, with frontline staff giving creative and passionate help to millions since March 2020. 

“The absence of any mention of social care in today’s Budget was striking at this pivotal moment, and Government must urgently bring forward its plans to invest in the future of this vital sector and those who depend on it. But if it’s once again ‘the same old story’, then let’s change the narrative: we all deserve the ability to make connections, nurture relationships, be supported and support each other. Government must now make social care a priority for all of us – for our friends and families, our present and futures.”

Government must make sure its employment schemes are accessible

The Budget was also criticised for not addressing the disability employment gaps of nearly 30% and for not adding something specific about disabled people, despite the Chancellor's announcement to use apprenticeships to support people into work.

Mencap said that long before Covid many people with a learning disability were shut out of employment. That’s why the government must make sure its employment schemes are accessible and inclusive. 

Jackie O'Sullivan, Executive Director of Communication, Advocacy & Activism at learning disability charity Mencap, added: “We know that with the right support people with a learning disability can make fantastic employees and that they have so much to give to help us rebuild after Covid. Many have proved their worth during the pandemic – with some working as the keyworkers we’ve all relied on to keep things moving.”