Dan Parton writes about more grim - but unsurprising - news this week for people with learning disabilities, their families and their carers: 1 in 4 people with learning disabilities now spend less than 1 hour outside of their home each day because of cuts to services, according to Mencap.
Mencap's report, 'Stuck at home: the impact ofday service cuts on people with a learning disability', paints aworsening picture of service provision around the country. Forexample, about a third of local authorities have closed dayservices in the past 3 years and 20% of those did so withoutoffering any alternative provision. Perhaps most significantly,more than half (57%) of people with learning disabilities known tosocial services no longer receive any day service provision - ajump of 9% in a year. So, the evidence of the impact localauthority cuts are having on the lives of people with learningdisabilities is starting to stack up. In April, the LearningDisability Coalition (LDC) reported that over the past year, 17% ofpeople with learning disabilities have seen a reduction in theirnumber of hours of support and 13% had been given less money tospend on their support. Additionally, 18% had had their servicecharges increased. As I said in my blog, written when the LDC report came out, thefindings were unsurprising, but that did not lessen theirimportance. These are not statistics on a piece of paper; they arereal people whose lives are becoming worse as a direct consequenceof cuts. That's what we always have to remember. Mencap's MarkGoldring says he is worried that these cuts, which are putting morepressure on a "failing" system, could undo some of the progressmade towards the greater participation of disabled people in theircommunities and in mainstream society. I think he's right. With 25%of people with learning disabilities stuck at home for most of theday, it's hardly helping them to take an active part in anything.Things are set to get worse too. Further budget cuts are expected,so even more people could find their services cut back or removedentirely in the coming years. Especially as it appears increasinglyunlikely that there will be any new money for social care comingfrom the Government, any time soon, after it emerged that therewill not be a fully-fledged social care bill until the next sessionof Parliament, in 2013. While modernisation of services is needed,local authorities cannot be allowed just to close day serviceswithout providing adequate replacements. After all, one of the mainaims of the personalisation agenda, and getting people ontoindividual budgets, is to give them choice and control over theservices they use. If the amount of service is simply cut, at theoutset, then that certainly isn't enhancing choice for individualbudget holders.