Down’s syndrome adults face cut in services

Services for adults with Down’s syndrome and other learning disabilities are underfunded by at least £200m a year, a consortium of 12 charities will tell the Treasury this week.

The Learning Disability Coalition has compiled a dossier of cuts to local authority services for this disadvantaged group. About 34% of people whose needs are severe enough to qualify for social care have experienced a cut in daytime services.

The coalition said the number of adults with learning disabilities will increase by 3-5% a year over the next five years. The forecast is based on evidence from school censuses showing the number of children with learning disabilities who will reach adulthood before 2014.

Dame Jo Williams, chair of the coalition, said the combination of growing need and service cuts was “a ticking timebomb”.

She acknowledged: “Arguing for better funding in the middle of a recession is an unenviable position to be in, but this is ultimately a matter of human dignity and – sadly, for some people – a matter of life and death.

Williiams added: “Unless the government makes a significant amount of money available to councils to fund good quality social care, we are worried about the impact on people who rarely voice their concerns.”

The coalition’s appeal comes after a report last month from the health and local government ombudsmen criticising NHS and social care staff for an appalling catalogue of neglect of people with learning disabilities.

The Treasury is considering the future funding of social care and is due to publish a reform plan later this year. The coalition said an increase in the care budget could be funded by switching a tiny fraction of the NHS budget.

Andrew Lee, director of People First and co-chair of the coalition, said: “Social care – and particularly social care for people with learning disabilities – just isn’t a priority for the government. Look at the difference between NHS funding going up by 4% and social care going up by 1% per annum.

“We are tired of the lip service paid to preventing harm to people with learning disabilities. Finding the £200m we need from the NHS budget of £106bn must be possible. And, in the long run, it would save money by preventing people needing more expensive care due to neglect.”

The coalition estimates there are about 800,000 adults with learning disabilities, of whom about 137,000 receive social care services.