EXCLUSIVE: Learning disability issues must be placed higher on the care agenda, says tech boss

Gavin Bashar, UK Managing Director at Tunstall Healthcare

The social care sector must come together to ensure that learning disability issues are put higher on the political agenda, an expert in the field has said.

Gavin Bashar, managing director of Tunstall Healthcare, which pioneers the use of technology to support those requiring care to live independently, said learning disabilities should be as high on the health and social care agenda as as dementia and diabetes.

His comments came in reaction to a report by charity Hft that 75% of parliamentarians believe that the learning disability sector accounts for less than 30% of social care spend in England, when in fact it accounts for around a third.

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Bashar said this was down to both ignorance and a lack of awareness around the problems facing this particular area of social care.

“There has to be some form of campaign to provide an understanding of the magnitude of the problems facing the learning disability sector. I don’t think people deliberately turn a blind eye to it, but there are always other things on the agenda,” he told Home Care Insight.

“I think with the greatest respect to other areas of social care, learning disabilities has to be higher on the agenda, as with dementia and diabetes etc. Maybe it’s just not got the share of voice that it needs, and that’s what we need to try and work on.”

Bashar echoed the recent comments made by Age UK boss Caroline Abrahams, who accused Boris Johnson of defining the social care sector purely in terms of the needs of older people.

“Of course, they are an incredibly important part of the care agenda, but not all of it. About half of council spending on adult social care goes on helping disabled people of working age and those with chronic illnesses, such as MS or MND,” she said.

Speaking outside 10 Downing Street last month, Johnson said: “My job is to protect you or your parents or grandparents from the fear of having to sell your home to pay for the costs of care.

“And so I am announcing now – on the steps of Downing Street – that we will fix the crisis in social care once and for all with a clear plan we have prepared to give every older person the dignity and security they deserve.”

Reacting to this statement, Abrahams argued that Johnson and his ministers have a “narrow view” of what the care crisis looks like.

Tunstall Healthcare is supporting Hft in its drive for a deal for the learning disabilities sector that could stimulate investment in assistive technologies and transform the way care is delivered.

The partners have produced a paper outlining the key arguments for an economic partnership with the government as part of the UK Industrial Strategy – a long term plan for the future aimed at backing businesses to drive productivity through investment in skills, industries and infrastructure.

The report, which was launched at the House of Lords last month, highlights the challenges faced by a social care sector in financial crisis at a time when demand is growing. 

Speaking after the event, Bashar said the whole sector needs to support the campaign.

“We must put our energy behind ensuring that we can secure a sector deal, and to do that we are going to harness a lot of support from people who have actually got experience in driving a sector deal from cradle to grave.

“We don’t want to reinvent the wheel – we want to try and harness all the support we can get. So it’s not just about executing the aspects of the sector deal that we want to deliver; its how do we get the sector deal and the government backing for this.”

Tags : Gavin BasharHftlearning disabilitiessector dealTunstall Healthcare
Sarah Clarke

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