Writes Maria Ahmed
The director of the social exclusion taskforce has urged councils to prioritise a new public service agreement on socially excluded adults arguing that it will lead to long-term savings to services.
In an interview with Community Care, Naomi Eisenstadt said she had “big concerns” that the PSA announced in the comprehensive spending review would be seen as “unpopular and low-profile.”
Under the PSA, councils will have to increase the proportion of adults with learning disabilities, care leavers over 18, offenders and those with mental health problems in employment, education or training and settled accommodation.
Currently, over 30% of care leavers aged 19 are not in education, employment or training compared to 13% of all young people and a third of prisoners about to leave prison have nowhere to stay. Around 70,000 people with severe mental health problems are on incapacity benefit, while just one in ten people with learning disabilities in touch with services are doing any form of paid work, according to figures from the social exclusion taskforce.
Eisenstadt called on councils to include the targets when they set out their priorities under local area agreements from next year.
While the targets will be among the 198 indicators top-tier councils will be assessed against from next year, local strategic partnerships can also include them in their three-year LAAs, setting out their top 35 local priorities.
Eisenstadt said the PSA, the first to focus specifically on the needs of socially excluded adults, would help address “patchy” progress in improving services.
“There is an overarching social justice goal to provide people with support, but also the recognition that there needs to be a preventative strategy. Giving people the right kind of support at the right time can save the state a lot of money. There will be benefits to the wider community of reducing reoffending, reducing costs and helping people to lead more productive lives,” she said.
“We need to target people with complex needs who are thankfully few in number but incredibly costly when we get it wrong. If we get it right for these key groups it will drive changed behaviour at a local level.”
Eisenstadt, who has headed up the social exclusion taskforce since January, warned the target of increasing the proportion of people with learning disabilities into employment should not lead to people being “driven” into “unproductive” jobs. “I would expect agencies to do better than that,” she said.
Guidance on the PSA will be published in April.
Giving people with learning disabilities the chance to have their own home and a job are two of the key aims of Community Care’s A Life Like Any Other campaign.