DH opens £25M housing and technology fund for people with learning disabilities

The Department of Health has now opened bidding for the £25 million fund to help people with learning disabilities live independently.

The fund is aimed at creating a range of housing and technology options for people with learning disabilities. This could include floor sensors to monitor for falls or finger-print technology to make access as easy as possible for residents.

Only 15% of adults with learning disabilities have a secure long-term tenancy or their own home. The fund will enable more people to live as independently as possible with the best care and support, greatly improving their quality of life.

The key aims of the fund are to:

  • Make use of new technologies and other bespoke adaptations to improve and adapt existing accommodation, enabling people to remain living independently;
  • Prevent unnecessary in-patient admissions. The fund will provide solutions for people who require urgent housing and are at risk of entering inappropriate services like hospital or residential care;
  • Encourage a move towards community-based solutions which promote independence and choice over housing; and
  • Deliver efficiencies – providing specially adapted housing means there is less of a requirement for costly hands-on care.

Minister for Community Health and Care David Mowat (pictured) said: “The Government is determined to improve the life chances of people with learning disabilities, and to make sure they never feel excluded from society. We want to harness all the benefits of technology to help achieve this.

“I hope this investment of £25 million will inspire many exciting and innovative projects which will make a hugely positive difference to people’s lives.”

Housing can be adapted for people with learning disabilities through features such as external access to bathrooms and kitchens to reduce disruption to tenants during repairs; curved surfaces to prevent injury; and mood lighting to create a calm, non-clinical environment.

However, while welcoming the additional funding, the National Autistic Society say they are concerned that those who are autistic, without a learning disability, will miss out.

Sarah Lambert, Head of Policy at the charity, said: “We welcome the additional funding to back up NHS England’s Transforming Care programme, however we are deeply concerned and disappointed to see that the money is earmarked only for people with a learning disability, leaving out those who are autistic without a learning disability.

“The funding has been provided to build on Transforming Care, which aims to support people with a learning disability and/or autism out of inappropriate mental health units and into the community, where they can be nearer their families and support networks.

“Transforming Care includes around 2500 people, and roughly a third of these have a diagnosis of autism. Many of them also have a learning disability and may therefore benefit from this funding. However around 1 in 6 people of people in these units are on the spectrum and don’t have a learning disability. Funding for their housing needs, staff training and support has not been allocated in today’s announcement.

“This adds to our concern that autistic people without a learning disability are being left behind. Recent data shows that the numbers of this group in mental health units are actually increasing, while the overall numbers are slowly starting to decrease and this is simply unacceptable.

“Being stuck in these units for a long period is extremely damaging and often causes people’s mental and physical health to deteriorate. We need leadership from the Government and NHS England, backed up with the funding needed to ensure that autistic people are able to gain the same benefits from the Transformation Care plan as those with learning disabilities. They must not be left behind.”

Around a third of people with a learning disability also have autism, and the Department of Health have made it clear that people who are in this group will be able to benefit from the fund.

A Department of Health spokesperson said: “Although this particular fund is specifically tailored to people with learning disabilities, we are committed to supporting people with autism. We are continuing to deliver our Think Autism strategy, which has a clear vision to help people with autism live fulfilling and rewarding lives.”

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