Dan Parton writes (23rd March 2011) : We all know that these are hard times for people with learningdisabilities who receive local authority social care services - butnow we are beginning to find out how hard. Last week saw therelease of the Learning Disability Coalition's (LDC) LocalAuthority Survey 2011, with the suitably doom-laden title 'Socialcare - the continuing crisis'. Its findings made depressing - butexpected - reading. For instance, of the 40% of councils thatreplied, 20% are making cuts to services for adults with learningdisabilities, compared to 10% in 2010. Meanwhile, 57% haveincreased charges for services or raised eligibility criteria orhas held a consultation on these options. Meanwhile, of the 342people with learning disabilities, their families and carers thatcompleted the LDC's online survey: o 20% had been told that theirhours of care would be reduced o 19% had been told that they wouldsee a reduction in funding o 33% had been contacted by theircouncil about an increase to eligibility criteria o 27% had beencontacted by their local authority about an increase to servicecharges. For the full results of the survey, click here
. But to me there is a risk that by makingcuts like these now to balance the books, local authorities couldbe setting themselves up for even greater costs in the years tocome. For example, by ramping up eligibility criteria to'substantial' and 'critical' only (as most councils now do) peoplewith moderate to high needs fall outside the remit of services.Therefore, they miss out on services that could have a positiveimpact on their lives. As a result, it increases the likelihood oftheir situation getting worse and increases the chances of theperson entering services - the NHS or social care - at a time ofcrisis, needing a greater level of help, which costs more. Indeed,the LDC's report has anecdotal evidence of how service users,having had their care services taken away by the local authority,are now not able to get the specialist care they need and aresuffering as a result. I feel like I'm stating the obvious here -and others have probably said it elsewhere - but nevertheless it'sworth repeating because it seems to have been ignored by those inpower. With cuts driven by shrinking budgets, the pressure is on tobalance the books, rather than long-term planning, it seems. Allthis means that people with learning disabilities are losing out onthe services they need to be able to live their lives and it isalready damaging their health and wellbeing. Without an end to thecuts, the continuing crisis of social care will only go on - andget worse.