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

Time for the Government to rethink social care plans?

In the past week, 2 reports have shown how cuts to social care services and benefits are hitting people with disabilities. As the weight of evidence against their policies grows, will the Government listen?

A couple of weeks ago I blogged on how tough 2013 will be for many people with learning disabilities – well, any disability for that matter – and A fair society? How the cuts target disabled people, by Dr Simon Duffy from the Centre for Welfare Reform, outlines just how tough life could get.

The report contains a calculation that people with disabilities will lose an average of £4,410 per person due to cuts to social care services and benefits, but those with severe disabilities face losing double that figure. For the latter group, the cuts are 19 times larger those that most other people will face.

For people who rely on social care services and benefits, this is scary stuff. And these are not figures plucked from the air – they’re based on Government information. Losing that amount of money could make the difference between living an independent life and merely existing.

This concern was echoed in another report, The Other Care Crisis, published by a coalition comprising Mencap, Scope, the National Autistic Society (NAS), Leonard Cheshire Disability and Sense, which found that nearly 5 in 10 people with disabilities said a lack of social care support prevented them from taking part in community life.

It also said the Government’s social care plans risk leaving up to 105,000 disabled people without basic support. This will be in addition to 90,000 fewer people receiving help than in 2008, despite a rise in the number of people living with disabilities.

The report also suggested that younger people with disabilities are at risk of being forgotten in the wider reform of social care. This isn’t a bolt from the blue: most of the debate, certainly in the mainstream media, has focused on care for older people and, most often, how people pay for residential care. This has meant that the funding gap in adult social care – reckoned in the report to be £1.2 billion – has been conveniently (for the Government) ignored.

This all paints a grim picture for the future. These latest reports add to others published in the past year, such as United Response’s Our Future, which found that people with learning disabilities are worried about care funding levels, benefit changes and the support they can expect to receive; and a Joint Committee on Human Rights report that said proposed reforms risk leaving disabled people without the support they need to live independently.

So, the evidence is mounting, as are the calls from charities and other third sector organisations, providers, advocates, carers and – most importantly – people with learning disabilities themselves, for the Government to rethink its plans.

Mark Lever, chief executive of the NAS, summed things up succinctly: “For less than 0.2% of public expenditure, the Government could ensure that over 100,000 vulnerable people have access to support that meets their basic human needs. Failing to provide this care for adults with autism can have a profound and sometimes devastating effect, resulting in people developing more serious mental health problems that will ultimately be at greater cost to the public purse.”

Reports like these add to pressure on the Government, but this pressure has to be sustained. This is about basic human needs, which surely any first-world country should provide for, as a matter of course? The Government has to rethink its plans: nobody in this country should be forced to suffer because of a lack of provision necessary to meet basic needs.

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