Charity warns ongoing cuts to learning disability support ‘a ticking time bomb’

Ongoing cuts to learning disability support systems that put strain on family carers are a “ticking time bomb”, a charity has warned.

Almost 90% of people with learning disabilities who had their social care cut during the first national lockdown are yet to have the support restored, a survey by learning disability charity Mencap found.

Around three quarters (71%) of family carers said the lack of support had increased the amount of care they provided themselves, leading to strained relationships.

Mencap said cuts to day services have had a “devastating” impact on people with a learning disability and their families, many of whom are “on the verge of breakdown”.

The charity asked 410 people across the UK about their experiences of caring for someone with a learning disability during the second lockdown.

It found that nearly two thirds (63%) of people with a learning disability had had their social care package reduced or stopped during the second lockdown.

This comes despite 62% of family carers reporting an increase in the support needs of their loved ones during the pandemic.

Carers reported that changes to care packages had negatively impacted on the mental and physical health, independence, and relationships of those they cared for.

The lack of respite also had an effect on carers themselves, with more than three quarters (76%) reporting a negative impact on their own mental health.

Others described “life-changing decisions” such as resigning from work or moving in with their loved one to care for them.

A further 88% of family carers said they also worried about access to community activities following the pandemic, due to further cuts by cash-strapped local authorities.

Edel Harris (pictured), chief executive of Mencap, said: “It is heartbreaking to see people with a learning disability and their families still struggling without support, eight months on from the first lockdown.

“Many people with a learning disability have spent the pandemic trapped at home, losing vital life skills and suffering from increasing mental health problems.

“Families have been left to pick up the pieces, but they are exhausted, stressed and in some cases, completely broken.

“Without any respite and with relationships under strain, it’s no wonder they feel abandoned and like life will never return to normal.”

Mencap is calling on the Government to provide £3.2 billion in emergency funding for social care to enable services to be reinstated this winter.

“Families are on the verge of breakdown. This situation cannot be sustained any longer. The consequences will be catastrophic,” said Ms Harris.

“It’s a ticking time bomb that the Government must put right.”

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