Elderly prioritised over people with learning disabilities, say charities
Children and adults with learning disabilities are being ignored by the government because current policy is too focused on care of the elderly, a coalition of charities claims today.
In a joint letter to the Guardian today, the heads of 15 charities warn of a £200m shortfall in funding and express dismay at the “needless hardship” inflicted on individuals and their families.
The complaint that older people have usurped political attention is unusual but one that may become increasingly common as the age profile of the UK population tilts in favour of pensioners. There are already more people aged over 65 than under 16 in the UK.
The Learning Disability Coalition of charities – which includes Mencap, the Down’s Syndrome Association, Turning Point and the National Autistic Society – says the government’s green paper on care, published last week in a fanfare of publicity, virtually ignores those in younger age groups.
“You would think,” the letter says, “that after the neglect, abuse and institutional discrimination against people with learning disabilities revealed over the last few years … it would be hard to forget the one and a half million people with learning disabilities. Not so.
“The long awaited green paper on the future of adult social care and support, Shaping the Future of Care Together, which does contain some very positive proposals, concentrates almost exclusively on how to fund social care for older people.”
The number of people with learning difficulties in the UK has been increasing at around 3% a year as advances in medicine enable more people to survive life-threatening conditions.
Heather Honour, director of the Learning Disability Coalition, said: “The government’s green paper was focused on the elderly. We all know that’s a big issue, but equally there’s a whole question of how the social care system looks after people with learning disabilities.
“People are already not getting the services they need, they are getting cut out of services – courses perhaps cut back to one day a week. We calculate that there’s a £200m shortfall.
“People don’t see those with learning difficulties as vote-winners. It’s not seen as a sexy political issue. It’s easy to forget these people.”