Care standards for people with learning disabilities will slip back if the government does not provide more funding for vital services, with the risk that the transformation agenda prompted by the Winterbourne View scandal will fail, learning disability care providers have warned.
The call, by a new coalition of providers called Learning Disability Voices, has been backed by former Care Minister, Liberal Democrat MP Norman Lamb (pictured), who has challenged the government to do more to support the UK’s most vulnerable people.
The coalition also warns that care packages are already being withdrawn across the country by providers because they cannot continue to provide the care that their clients need at the prices paid by commissioners.
Learning Disability Voices comprises charities, not-for-profit, and independent sector companies that provide learning disability services in the UK, including Mencap, United Response, Voyage Care, Lifeways and The Wilf Ward Family Trust. Together they represent 20% of the total sector provision.
These warnings coincide with the launch today of Learning Disability Voices’ ‘Care Crisis Manifesto’ to mark the start of an intensive campaign to secure better funding for people with learning disabilities.
Learning disability care is delivered in a different way from other forms of adult social care, meaning that providers cannot drive further efficiencies to reduce costs. There are virtually no self-funders in their services so they have only one customer: the government.
The manifesto calls on the government to give councils the freedom to raise more funds for learning disability services without having to hold a referendum, as well as increasing funding from central government by allowing learning disability providers access to the Better Care Fund.
“In other parts of the world, being born with a learning disability puts one at risk of being rejected from society, institutionalised and cruelly abused,” said Lamb. “In the UK, millions of dedicated carers and professionals have worked hard to ensure that people with care needs are able to live at the heart of their community and lead a full life, as independently as possible.
“But the government is burying its head in the sand over a growing crisis in our communities, where our most vulnerable citizens risk losing vital care and support. We must not enable the clocks to turn back to the days before personalised and high quality support became the norm. That’s why I am supporting the efforts of Learning Disability Voices to secure a proper settlement from the government, to ensure that they can continue to provide the quality care that their clients need and deserve.”
Diane Lightfoot, director of policy and communications at care charity United Response and co-chair of Learning Disability Voices, said: “After the horror of the Winterbourne View revelations, the government rightly recognised that community care is the best environment for people with learning disabilities. But if the funding is not available for us to transition people into the community safely and effectively, the Transforming Care agenda will fail, with devastating consequences.
“With care packages being withdrawn across the country and quality providers leaving the sector, the government’s response to this funding crisis has been inadequate. Without action soon, the most vulnerable people in society will be let down. We want to be able to continue to provide high quality, personalised care to ensure their dignity and independence, but we cannot operate at a loss in the long-term.”