It’s not surprising that a report, out this week, found that people with learning disabilities are worried about care funding levels, benefit changes and the support they can expect to receive. But whether these concerns will be dealt with is another matter.
United Response’s Our Future, which is based on the views of a group of its service users with learning disabilities and their relatives, found that concerns remain at a high level.
With more social care changes and cuts on the way, these are uncertain times and people want clarity on what is – or isn’t – going to happen to their benefits and support packages. Sadly, any degree of clarity will only start to emerge in 2013, when the next round of local authority budgets are announced and universal credit and personal independence payments start to be introduced to replace existing benefits.
Those developments will determine whether the concerns of many people with learning disabilities mount or subside.
Elsewhere, the survey highlighted other issues that the Government will have to address as it considers the responses it received during the public consultation on the draft Care and Support Bill. These include pressure for better access to support for those with mild and moderate needs and for those with multiple disabilities, and for people with both learning disabilities and mental health problems.
At the crux of this is funding – isn’t it always? Specifically, the concern that social care is given enough funding to ensure that people with learning disabilities get the support they need.
As United Response’s chief executive, Su Sayer, said: “The White Paper and draft legislation present us with an opportunity to offer disabled people a much more secure future, but this can only happen if the system is properly funded.”
The call for more funding has been made very widely – and many times before – over recent years, but so far, it has fallen on deaf ears. Or at least on ears that are open but don’t appear to take any heed.
Social care has been underfunded for years and, with increasing numbers of older people and people with disabilities seeking services, this situation is getting worse. But, as ever, the country’s parlous financial situation takes precedence.
With the amount of political wrangling that has gone on – which, by all accounts, continues unabated – over the proposals in the Dilnot report, getting any consensus on putting more money into the system seems, even with wild optimism, highly unlikely.
So while Sayer added that: “We must not let them [people with learning disabilities] or future generations down by missing this opportunity to fix a system which is severely overstretched,” you wonder if this opportunity will actually be taken.
While some of the reforms proposed in the Care and Support Bill could make a positive difference to people with learning disabilities, they will only go so far. The system is overstretched and desperately needs more investment, but there seems little likelihood of that happening, so, sadly, the fundamental concerns outlined in Our Future seem set to remain with us for some time yet.