Three quarters of local authorities are facing difficulties in funding services for people with a learning disability and have made either cuts or savings in the past year, with 9 out of 10 anticipating having to make further 'efficiency savings', a new report has found.
The report: Social care in crisis: the need for reform, by the Learning Disability Coalition - which comprises 15 learning disability organisations - also found that nearly half (48%) of people with a learning disability have had their support reduced or charges increased.
The report found that care providers are also struggling, with 90% saying their funding situation was difficult and 72% experiencing funding cuts to their services. Meanwhile, 38% had to increase the amount that they charge clients in order to make up the shortfall. People with learning disabilities are also experiencing the cutbacks directly. Over the past year, 17% of people with learning disabilities reported a reduction in their number of hours of support and 13% had been given less money to spend on their support. Additionally, 18% had had their service charges increased. The report found that 2% of people who responded had lost their support entirely, due to their local authority changing its eligibility criteria. Overall, in the last year 13% of local authorities surveyed had tightened their eligibility criteria, with a further 7% considering making changes in the next financial year.
This is the Learning Disability Coalition's third annual survey of local authorities and data was taken from 70 (46%) local authorities - representing 69,000 people with a learning disability - 61 service providers and 312 people with a learning disability, their families and carers.
Anthea Sully, director of the Learning Disability Coalition, said: "Nearly half of people with a learning disability have had either had their services cut or charges increased. This reveals the myth that restrictions on local authority budgets can be contained within efficiency savings. Ongoing cuts are being made to services, causing very real difficulties for people. "The Government must urgently reform the system and invest more money to end the care crisis or many people with a learning disability, their families and carers will struggle to maintain even a basic standard of living."
Mark Lever, chief executive of The National Autistic Society, added: "For adults with autism and other disabilities social care services are vital to ensuring they live full and independent lives, yet they are currently drastically under-funded. With the Government's forthcoming reforms there is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to end the care crisis in England. "For too long people with autism have been misunderstood and discriminated against by a complicated and counter-productive system that often lets people reach crisis point before they get any help. Social care must not be a system of last resort. "Not only does the right support at the right time make an enormous difference to the lives of people with autism and other disabilities, it could also save the Government millions each year."
In response, a Department of Health spokesperson said: "We know that council spending on social care is under pressure - that's why the Government is providing an extra £7.2 billion over four years to local authorities so that they can protect access to care and support. "It is disappointing that this report finds that nearly half of people with a learning disability have had their support reduced or charges increased. But the majority have not had their support cut and this is reinforced by a recent report by Demos and Scope, 'Coping with the Cuts', which found no direct correlation between budget reductions and the impact on local people. "This shows that if local authorities make appropriate efficiency savings and develop innovative solutions, they can maintain and improve access to the services that people need, including helping people to continue to live independently. "Urgent reform of the care and support system is needed, and we will publish a White Paper on care and support and a progress report on funding reform later this spring."