People with learning difficulties in Oxfordshire could be denied the choice to live on their own as financial pressures in the sector continue to hit councils.
Oxfordshire Council estimates that it needs an extra £1.4m a year for the next three years to sustain learning difficulties services and is looking to save money by moving people currently in single tenancies into group homes.
Alan Sinclair, the council’s operations manager for adult learning disabilities, told Community Care it was being forced to “limit choice” because of spending pressures.
He said there was a growing demand for services from young people with complex needs and older people who were living longer.
“While councils are trying really hard to meet the aspirations of the health and social care white paper by providing individualised support, it is really hard going financially and the government needs to acknowledge this,” he added.
Last week’s Association of Directors of Social Services finance report showed that more than three-quarters of councils face higher pressures in learning difficulties services than in any other area (Fears for learning difficulties services, 16 March).
Sinclair said the cost of supporting individuals in single tenancies in Oxfordshire was “extortionate”.
Under the council’s plan, a number of people living on their own would be moved into group homes of around three to four people.
The council has met the shortfall for learning difficulties services for this year, but questions remain over future funding.
Sinclair said: “We would rather reconfigure than cut services, and while we have to tighten our belts we still want to be able to provide support for people with the highest needs. This is a very difficult situation.”
Yvonne Cox, chief executive of Oxfordshire Learning Disability NHS Trust, has raised Oxfordshire Council’s plan with the Learning Disability Taskforce, the body that advises the government on the delivery of Valuing People targets.
She said the plan would mean a “backward move” for people with learning difficulties used to living on their own, but added: “We have to be honest about the amount of money available, and it is not enough.”