As another year draws to a close, it is the traditional time to get the crystal ball out and look at what might happen in the next 12 months. In keeping with recent years, the next year looks set to be tough for people with learning disabilities but there are still reasons to be optimistic.
In truth, you don’t need to be Mystic Meg to have a good idea what the major concerns for people with learning disabilities will be in 2015: cuts to support services and the concern over losing benefits thanks to welfare reform. It has been this way since the last general election. However, as time goes on, we are seeing more cases of people with learning disabilities struggling to make ends meet and maintain their independence – something that will only continue this year.
But in 2015, there are other things that will have an effect on people with learning disabilities. Firstly, the Care Act will undoubtedly have an impact. For instance, councils will now have a duty to promote people's wellbeing – be they service users or carers. People will also be able to appeal against council decisions on eligibility and funding for care and support.
Then there is the general election in May – and this is where much of the uncertainty of the next 12 months lies. Which party wins – or go into coalition together – will determine the direction of health and social care provision for the next few years.
Of course, austerity is set to continue, regardless of whichever party is in power. It is more than likely that social care will be in the firing line again, so services will continue to be under threat of cuts or closure.
Meanwhile, reform of the learning disability institutional sector is still being discussed. After the abject failure to meet the target of moving people inappropriately housed in assessment and treatment units in June, the recent Bubb Report has put forward recommendations for reform, but whether these will ever make it to the frontline remains to be seen.
Others are looking to make legal changes, such as with the ‘LB Bill’, which seeks to reinforce disabled people’s right to live in the community unless residential care is strictly necessary.
That is a cause of optimism, and there are many other reasons to not become downcast. For instance, anyone who went to the Learning Disability Today conference and exhibition on November 27 will have heard examples of good practice and innovative ways to help people with learning disabilities to live well.
So, while we may not be certain what lies ahead in 2015, we can still be sure that dedicated people will be helping people with learning disabilities to achieve their goals in life and live the best life they can.