Learning Disability Today
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On Tuesday 11th May, the Queen addressed the Lord’s chamber in Westminster, where she set out the government’s plan to take the UK forward after the Covid-19 pandemic.
A total of 30 news laws were unveiled, which outlined plans for the NHS, housing, education, and boarders and security among other items. However, there was a distinct lack of discussion over social care, which the Queen only briefly touched upon, saying: “Proposals on social care reform will be brought forward.” It is now clear that there is no specific bill in place to tackle the problem.
The lack of dialogue over the long-awaited social care reform has caused anger to erupt across the sector, as the government continues to delay any real change from occurring.
It has now been two years since the Prime Minister promised the public there was a plan in place to “fix the social care crisis.” An act that Sir Keir Starmer, the leader of the opposition, has said is “unforgivable”.
The learning disability charity Mencap are particularly concerned about the government’s lack of recognition for the social care sector and the impact this will have on those with a learning disability.
Edel Harris, Chief Executive of Mencap, said: “We are bitterly disappointed that social care only got a passing mention in today’s Queen Speech. Where’s the ambition and funding when people are being left without the vital care and support they need to get by? Simply tinkering with parts of the system, at a time when the whole care sector has borne the brunt of this Covid crisis, risks becoming the Prime Minister’s legacy, rather than heralding a 1948 moment for social care as part of our national recovery.
“During the pandemic, people with a learning disability had their care cut when they needed it most, they died at shockingly higher rates than the wider population, and the care sector has been pushed to breaking point.
“It’s time the Prime Minister matched his words with action to level up the social care system. We need social care to help everyone in this country who needs it, including working-age people with lifelong needs. Working conditions for low paid yet invaluable care workers must improve and disabled people should not be left without care to live healthy and happy lives. The Government must deliver ambitious reforms and proper funding to create a world class social care system we can all be proud of.”
The social care sector has been left chronically underfunded for decades, and the Covid-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the problem.
Mencap said it received a “concerning number of calls” during the pandemic, as local authorities began to claw back money or increase care contributions for people with learning disabilities.
There is now growing concern that without urgent funding from the government, people with learning disabilities will find it increasingly difficult to lead active and fulfilling lives in the community.
Kirsty Matthews, CEO of Hft, the national charity supporting adults with learning disabilities, said: “The 2021 Queen’s Speech follows an extremely challenging year which saw the social care sector play a vital role on the front line, supporting some of the most vulnerable adults in society. It is therefore even more disappointing that the government chose to leave the social care sector and the people we support out of their plans to ‘Level Up’ as the country recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic.
“While the government has renewed their pledge to bring forward proposals for social care this year, there was a stark absence of concrete legislation outlining reform and a long-term funding settlement for the sector. As demonstrated by our Sector Pulse Check research, this is desperately needed, given that 56% of social care providers reported being either in deficit or having seen their surplus decline. These cost pressures have ultimately led to service closures, staff redundancies and care being offered to fewer people.
“Overall, today’s announcement amounts to yet another missed opportunity and broken promise – sentiments the sector has heard repeated for countless years. Social care, at its heart, is centred on the people it supports, ensuring they can live with greater independence and choice. It is vital the government finally listens to our call and takes action to bring forward the change needed to reinvigorate the sector and create a sustainable future. This cannot happen soon enough.”
The Prime Minister has said the general public have every right to hold the government to account, and promises the government will bring forward proposals on adult social care later in the year.