City’s budget time bomb over learning disability aid

EDINBURGH is facing a learning disabilities time bomb after it emerged nearly 200 people are waiting for supported accommodation in the city.

Medical advances in recent decades mean more people are living into old age despite having conditions like Down’s Syndrome, while others who previously wouldn’t have seen their teens are living far longer.

While this is obviously good news, it is placing an increasing strain on council services supporting adults with learning disabilities.

In three years the number of people on the council’s books who needed assistance increased from 1,600 to 2,300, while the accommodation waiting list has rocketed from 80 to 180 since 2001.

Council chiefs admitted the issue was causing “a budgetary headache” but vowed to address the growing problem.

It is anticipated the population of Edinburgh’s learning-disabled community will grow by around four per cent every year, while accommodation needs will swell by 11 per cent.

Of concern to officials and charities is not only the number of people with learning disabilities needing support, but the impact that is having on their parents.

Because many are living much longer, some parents in their 80s and 90s are finding themselves caring for children who are in their 60s.

The city’s health and social care leader Councillor Paul Edie said: “It is fantastic that medical advances mean so many people can live longer, but it does cause a budgetary headache for us.

“Ideally I would like to invest more in services. Every time someone on the waiting list gets accommodation another person takes their place on that.

“Part of the reason we are going through the retendering process (for disabled people receiving care] is so we can spend money more smartly.

“When a parent becomes unable to look after their child either through death or infirmity the council steps in. Ideally, I would like us to be able to step in before that.”

A document outlining the seriousness of the situation has been presented to councillors.

It states the most prominent increase in demand is in the 16-30 age group, adding that a change in the way services are provided will probably have to be examined if the need is to be met.

The city spends just less than £50 million every year on services for people with learning disabilities.

David Griffiths, the chief executive of city disabled organisation ECAS, said: “With falling budgets and an increasing population this is only going to become a greater problem, and we need to have an open debate about it.

“It is a worry for elderly people who care for their children, and if we can help them sooner by taking the stresses and strains away it could have a positive impact on their own health.

“The council should also look at transferring money between different budgets to help cope with this.

“At a time when the education department is closing schools because there are fewer young people to go to them, they should look at the growing number of disabled people and what they need.”

‘He needs someone with him all the time’

AS THE years go by 61-year-old Derek Carlin becomes more concerned for his son’s future.

The Moredun man is the full time carer for his 38-year-old son, also Derek, who has Down’s Syndrome and epilepsy.

And while he doesn’t resent having to care for his son, he is conscious that he won’t always be around to look after him.

“When you get into your 60s you begin to think about it,” he said. “You don’t consider it at all when you’re in your 20s and 30s, but now it’s something I look at.

“I have made legal arrangements which you can get help to do from voluntary organisations like Voice of Carers Across Lothian.

“But it is still of concern, because he needs someone with him all the time.”

Mr Carlin also argued there should be more help for people in positions similar to his.

“It was different when my wife was alive and I had a cracking job, but when she passed away and I had to give up work to look after Derek I couldn’t believe there wasn’t more money you could access to get help,” he added.