Latest Public Sector News

26.04.17

Community support ‘patchy’ for people with learning disabilities

More needs to be done to reduce the number of beds in mental health hospitals for people with a learning disability, and greater levels of funding and support are required when moving them into community care, according to an influential group of MPs.

In a report released today, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) stated that while progress had been made on reducing pressure on hospitals by caring for patients in the community through the Transforming Care programme, a number of problems existed with services being run by local authorities that needed to be acted upon.

In particular, access to healthcare and equal opportunities in the community for people with learning disabilities was described as “patchy” by the PAC, as it stated that employment rates were too low and varied hugely between different regions.

The national rate of employment for people with learning disabilities was found to only be 5.8%, varying from 3% to 20% across different local areas.

Importantly, PAC said that funding was not following patients into the community, the report stating: “There is a risk of unfunded pressures on local authorities if money does not move with the patient.”

The committee also raised issues with the proposed change to the local housing allowance, stating that it could leave people with learning disabilities without enough benefits to pay the higher rent that they will most likely have to take on from more expensive specialist accommodation.

This follows a similar warning by disability charities last year that the local housing settlement was likely to create a postcode lottery for people in supported accommodation, meaning that the housing crisis could be deepened further.

The report stated: “More needs to be done to address known barriers: money is not moving with the patient to pay for support in the community, too many people are not having care and treatment reviews and the uncertainty caused by the proposed changes to local housing allowance risks hampering the provision of accommodation in the community.

“We are also concerned that support for people with a learning disability who live in the community is patchy; there are significant local variations but, on average, fewer than 6% of people with a learning disability are in employment and only 23% of people with a learning disability are registered as such with their GPs.

“There needs to be a greater focus on measuring outcomes and improvements to the quality of life from the £8bn central and local government spend each year on this support.”

Today’s news also comes after the LGA called on the government to not forget that adult social care encompassed people with learning disabilities as well as the elderly.

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