Last weekend about 500,000 people converged on London to protest about the size and speed of government cuts. Among them were a number of people with learning disabilities – a group arguably feeling the effects of the cuts more than most.Indeed, a survey by Care and Support Alliance – a consortium of 40 charities, including Mencap, Scope and the MS Society – reported that more than half of disabled people had seen their health suffer due to changes in social care services brought about by government cuts.
Additionally – and a stark reminder of how little people on disability benefits have – 43% could not afford essentials like food and heating as a result of changes such as increased care charges.It shows how much people are already suffering from the government’s cuts. Worryingly, these are just the beginning of the cuts; there will be more in the months and years to come – and these statistics will only get worse.But the protest seems to have fallen on deaf ears. Or at least ears that refuse to listen. Speaking the day after the protests, business secretary Vince Cable said the protests will not change the government’s deficit reducing strategy.
So, given the Care & Support Alliance statistics, how the government can still stand up and say they will protect the most vulnerable in society is beyond me; the most vulnerable are already suffering. As a result, soon, if not already, people will end up in acute services in crisis, simply because they could not afford the necessary help to live independently. Their lives are being directly and adversely impacted by decisions that filter down from top-level government.The government and Commission on Funding of Care and Support – which is due to report in July – need to take action to ensure that the future for many people with learning disabilities is not one of unnecessary struggle, hardship and pain.
So much progress has been made in recent years on helping people with learning disabilities to live the lives that they want to – a fundamental right in any civilised society. But these cuts run the risk of undoing a lot of that work, and must not be allowed to happen.The voices of protest are not going to go away – as the London demonstration showed and more events are planned. Only by carrying on protesting – peacefully – and campaigning to local councils is there a chance that anything can be changed.