Dan Parton writes (4th July 2012) : When the adult social care White Paper finally appears, it must ensure that the needs of people with disabilities are not marginalised.
We have been repeatedly told by the Government that adult social care reform is a priority and that a White Paper on it is on its way – but the deadline keeps on slipping. First, it was meant to be published last autumn, then spring of this year, and latterly last month.
You have to wonder, with only a couple of weeks before those in Parliament go on their summer holidays, whether its publication date will now slip to the autumn or even beyond; once the house rises on July 17, they don’t come back again until September 3.
That the White Paper hasn’t appeared yet indicates that MPs are still arguing over the content of it. Admittedly, there are no easy solutions to how the rising demand for adult social care services from people with disabilities and older people can be addressed, especially within the context of widespread local authority cutbacks, but find them they must – the situation will only worsen if it is left.
They have already ducked the issue of how to fund social care – there will just be a “progress” report published alongside the White Paper – because, it is said, ministers couldn’t agree on how to do it after the Treasury baulked at the £1.7 billion cost the Dilnot Commission put on it last year.
But in the arguments over how to reform adult social care, it is important that the needs of people with disabilities are not marginalised. Much of the debate – and mainstream media coverage – has focused on the needs of older people. While I’m not saying that these concerns are not vitally important – they are – it should not overshadow the needs of younger adults with learning disabilities.
To that end, service provider Dimensions launched its own social care charter last week at Parliament, which outlines 5 key priorities for the White Paper for people with learning disabilities:

  • Choice and control over their money
  • Greater independence
  • To be part of my community
  • To have a voice and to be listened to
  • Control and choice over relationships.

While these are nothing new or revolutionary, they are fundamental priorities that the White Paper must ensure are enshrined in law. With no new policy planned to replace Valuing People Now, it is up to the White Paper to ensure that the progress made by that policy, its predecessor Valuing People, and by the general personalisation agenda are maintained and built upon.
There are concerns that, since Valuing People Now’s demise, learning disability issues now have less priority in Government, and that, without drive from the top, progress on improving people’s lives could stall or even regress. This cannot be allowed to happen and the White Paper is the best opportunity to ensure that it doesn’t – whenever it is finally published.