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Transition to community care for people with learning disabilities ‘painfully slow’

Shared Lives

The number of adults with a learning disability are increasingly being cared for at home, but local authorities still have a lot of work to do promote independent living among this group of people, auditing giant Grant Thornton has warned.

Writing in a new report in published in partnership with the County Councils Network (CCN), the firm said that in county areas, the proportion of adults aged 18 to 64 with a learning disability who live in their own home or with their families has increased from 59% in 2011 to 76% in 2018.

But progress in moving these people out of care homes and into the community has been “painfully slow” and councils need to be “very active” in pushing providers to shift their offer, the report said.

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During a roundtable discussion hosted by Grant Thornton and CCN, county leaders and senior officers said that demand and financial pressures associated with providing care and support services to residents with learning disabilities have significantly increased, with many councils now reporting that learning disability expenditure forms nearly half of their adult social care expenditure.

For some councils, learning disability expenditure forms a larger proportion of adult social care expenditure.

A number of the current barriers to independent living have been identified by Mencap, a UK charity for people with a learning disability.

These include a lack of resources, such as housing and support services, as a result of increasing demand, as well as a reduction in local authority budgets.

Mencap also identifies “systematic failures in planning for the future of people with a learning disability” and the lack of appropriate housing.

Nationally, there has been a shift from using residential provision to using community-based accommodation to care for people with a learning disability, such as supported living or home-share arrangements.

For example, Lancashire and West Sussex both supported 10% of their learning disability population known to adult social care in Shared Lives arrangements, the social care report said.

Research by Shared Lives Plus found that if all areas offered the same level of provision, then “4,997 people with learning disabilities would be using Shared Lives with savings of around £70m a year”.

A number of counties are also investing in new accommodation to promote independent living.

For example, Hampshire County Council is investing £35m in schemes to support younger adults with learning and physical disabilities in order to deliver 38 extra-care units.

Roundtable attendees identified that there are an increasing number of cases whereby people with learning disabilities are requiring council-funded care and support services at 50-60 years old.

This is as a result of their parents caring for them well into later life, then when they pass away or are unable to care for their children any longer, they then engage the council for care and support services.

Image credit: Shared Lives Plus.

Tags : County Councils NetworkGrant Thorntonhome carelearning disabilities
Sarah Clarke

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