The majority of people with a learning disability who had their social care cut during the pandemic have not had their support reinstated, eight months on from the first lockdown, a new survey has found.
National charity Mencap asked 410 people across the UK about their experiences of caring for someone with a learning disability after tougher restrictions were re-introduced on November 5.
It found that 87% of people with a learning disability have not had their support reinstated since March, leaving family carers at “breaking point”.
The survey also showed that while 54% of respondents had had their support services “partially reinstated”, 32% of people continue to struggle without any form of formal care and support.
And almost three quarters (72%) of family carers surveyed are worried that there would be more cuts to care packages to come, with some reporting that their local authority is already trying to reduce their loved ones’ care package.
Nearly two thirds (63%) of people with a learning disability had their social care package reduced or stopped during the second lockdown, according to Mencap, and 71% of family carers had no choice but to continue to increase the amount of care and support they offer.
The charity warns that cuts to day services and respite for carers have had a “devastating impact” on people with a learning disability and their families.
The survey reveals that almost two thirds (62%) of family carers said their loved one’s support needs had increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Three quarters (73%) of family carers also reported that changes to care packages during the second lockdown continue to have a negative impact on their loved one’s mental health – up from 69% during the summer.
One family spoke about how their loved one’s increasing unmet support needs had left them at crisis point, culminating in their loved one being sectioned.
Caring for someone around the clock while day services are closed and respite hours are cut has also taken a toll on the wellbeing of family carers. Over three quarters (76%) of family carers reported that changes to their loved one’s support package had a negative impact on their own mental health.
Families also spoke about the detrimental impact of taking on long-term caring responsibilities. Some families revealed that they had been forced to make life-changing decisions, like resigning from work or moving in with their loved one so they could care for them.
Over half (54%) of family carers said that the safe reopening of day services would have made a positive difference to the lives of them and their loved one during the first lockdown. But many families are worried that cash-strapped local councils will have no choice but to make further cuts to social care services once the coronavirus pandemic is over.
“I would like to see local councils making sure people with LD/autism have the same chances of getting back their services as the school children and university students. They matter too,” said on family carer.
Edel Harris, chief executive of the learning disability charity Mencap, said: “It is heart-breaking to see people with a learning disability and their families still struggling without support, eight months on from the first lockdown.
“Many people with a learning disability have spent the pandemic trapped at home, losing vital life skills and suffering from increasing mental health problems. Families have been left to pick up the pieces, but they are exhausted, stressed and in some cases, completely broken. Without any respite and with relationships under strain, it’s no wonder they feel abandoned and like life will never return to normal. Families are on the verge of breakdown. This situation cannot be sustained any longer. The consequences will be catastrophic.”
As part of the charity’s #SocialCareCrisis campaign, Mencap is calling on the government to provide at least £3.2 billion in emergency funding for social care in its forthcoming spending review to enable services to be safely reinstated this winter. The charity’s petition to the Treasury secured over 10,000 signatures.
Harris added: “Social care has had decades of under-investment, but the effects of the coronavirus pandemic mean that the sector is more fragile than ever before. Already we are seeing cash-strapped local authorities clawing back people’s support packages at a time when their support needs are increasing and when they need it most. It’s a ticking time bomb that the government must put right.”