More than half of families caring for relatives with learning difficulties are in “physical and emotional crisis” because of a lack of short break services, according to a report published today.
One in three families have also experienced a cut in their short break services in the last year, while half have not had a carer’s assessment that would entitle them to support, research by Mencap revealed.
It found tightening of local authority eligibility criteria was leading to “rationing” of respite care due to pressures on budgets. The report also found that residential short break centres around the country are facing closure.
Mencap interviewed 353 families in six local authority areas in England and throughout Northern Ireland between May and July.
It found that “nothing” had changed since a previous Mencap study identified similar problems in 2003.
The charity is calling for a raft of measures including a minimum level of short breaks equivalent to one night in every week of the year, increased central government funding, better assessment of family’s needs and local authority audits of short break provision.
Jo Williams, Mencap’s chief executive said: “We are appalled that families caring for children and adults with a severe or profound learning disability are still not getting the support they need.
“With no legal entitlement to short breaks, these families are falling to the back the queue when it comes to funding and priority. Regular short breaks in a safe, caring environment are vital and can make a huge difference to the quality of life of the whole family.”