Education & Family

Charity cuts fear for those with learning disabilities

art class
Image caption The Learning Disability Coalition is calling for urgent reform of the system

People with learning disabilities are becoming isolated because of cuts to support and day services in England, says a joint report by 14 charities.

The Learning Disability Coalition said 77% of the local authorities it questioned were making cuts or savings and most expected to make further cuts.

The coalition said half of the 312 people surveyed said they now got less or no support, or paid more for help.

The government said urgent reform of the care and support system was needed.

The Learning Disability Coalition (LDC) has been assessing the pressures on care for some of the most vulnerable people in society.

Just under half (46%) of the local authorities in England, caring for some 69,000 people with learning disabled people, responded to the survey.

Three-quarters of these said they were facing difficulties in funding services for people with learning disabilities, and were making cuts or what they called "efficiency savings".

The LDC also surveyed 61 organisations providing services to people with learning difficulties, and 72% said funding for their services from local authorities had been cut.

Two-thirds are now expected to provide additional support to people without extra funding.

In some parts of the country, this has led to care workers being told their salaries will be cut.

Of the 312 people with learning difficulties who were questioned, 17% had had a reduction in their number of support hours and 13% had been given less money to pay for support.

Increased service charges affected 18% of respondents, and 2% had lost their support entirely because their local authority had changed its eligibility criteria.

'Very upset'

Suzy Rowbottom, 41, who has Down's Syndrome, used to get 12 hours of help a week. But in December, that was cut to two hours.

Her mother Kate said: "I just couldn't understand it - these are the same people who assessed her 12-14 years ago.

"She hasn't changed, only their agendas changed.

"As far as I am concerned, they assessed she needed 12 hours... and her needs haven't changed, so I was very upset.

"It's all the safety aspect - the vulnerability of them that worries me, and of course when I am not here."

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."

'Disappointing'

A spokesman for the Department of Health said: "We know that council spending on social care is under pressure - that's why the government is providing an extra £7.2bn 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."

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