Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

Social care users still face ‘a very tough winter’ despite new white paper promises

The new social care white paper has received a mixed response from leading organisations who say that although the ‘overall vision’ is the right one, people with a learning disability still face a ‘very tough winter’ as there are no immediate solutions.

In the white paper, People at the Heart of Care, the government has set out a 10-year vision for adult social care and provides information on funded proposals that it will implement over the next three years.

On 7 September 2021, the Prime Minister announced £5.4 billion for adult social care reform over the next three years. At the Autumn Spending Review 2021, it was confirmed that £1.7 billion of this funding would be for major improvements across the adult social care system.

This white paper sets out how some of this money will be spent to begin to transform the adult social care system in England, such as new investments in:

  • housing and home adaptations
  • technology and digitisation
  • workforce training and wellbeing support
  • support for unpaid carers, and improved information and advice
  • innovation and improvement.

Not enough care workers to help people

Mencap said that was a lot to like in the white paper, but there is a significant amount of work still to do as many people are not getting the care they need and there are not enough care workers to help them. 

Edel Harris, Chief Executive, added: “The emphasis on personalisation, fairness and choice; recognition of rising unmet need; and focus on working age disabled adults and, in particular, people with a learning disability, are all evident here. We are also pleased to see measures to strengthen links with housing, reform Local Authority commissioning and make navigating the system easier.

“However, although the £1.7 billion sounds like a lot, very little of it will find its way to the people who use and give care every day. We urgently need some solutions now or there will be no social care system to fix in the future.”

Funding allocated to deliver white paper is insufficient

The King’s Fund also said government’s plans mean social care services will continue to face significant challenges in supporting people who rely on them to ‘live independent and fulfilling lives.’ 

Sally Warren, Director of Policy, said: “The overall vision in the white paper is the right one and if delivered could significantly improve the experience of people receiving care and those who work in the sector. However, the steps outlined don’t go fast or far enough to achieve this vision and the funding allocated to deliver it is insufficient. In particular, although there are some welcome commitments on training and skills for staff, there is little to tackle poor workforce pay and conditions and high vacancy levels in the sector. 

“There are some positive proposals such as the focus on giving higher priority to developing better options for housing – an area that has been under-developed in the UK until now but has the potential to make a significant difference to supporting people to live independently in their communities.  

“But there is nothing in the proposals to deal with some of the most urgent and immediate problems currently facing the sector including high levels of unmet need and a fragile provider market. There is also a lack of new, practical measures to empower people to have personal choice and control over the care they receive.”

Key policies that will help people with a learning disability and/or autism

The National Autistic Society has highlighted the key policies that it thinks should support autistic people and their families who use care services. 

This includes £300 million funding so councils can offer a wider variety of supported housing options to help people live as independently as they can. There will also be a new support service to help with making repairs and changes in people’s own homes.

The charity also welcomed measures to support more autistic people and people with learning disabilities into employment. This includes the launch of a new Local Supported Employment scheme through the Department for Work and Pensions, originally working with 20 local authorities and supporting 1,200 people who use social care services from 2022.

Other beneficial policies include the new £30 million Innovative Models of Care Programme that supports councils to launch new ways of deliveringcare in the community and changing services that support unpaid carers. 

The charity said it welcomed many of these important commitments, which are vital and should go some way to making a real difference in the long-run. However, they are concerned that the white paper doesn’t provide the urgent funding the system needs right now, or go far enough to tackle current workforce issues, including staff shortages and pay, and gaps in support.

It added: “Our research suggests that two in three autistic adults don’t get the support they need, for instance to do things like wash, manage money or get out of the house. It’s clear that the government needs to invest in social care right now.

“The government says it now wants to work with a range of organisations and people who use care and support or provide unpaid care, to look at how it can measure the success of the plans in the white paper. We are keen to be part of this, but we’ll also keep calling on the government to give councils enough funding to ensure staff are supported and disabled adults get the support they need.”


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