Campaigners have dubbed Valuing People Now, the long-awaited strategy for people with learning disabilities, “unrealistic” after ministers failed to back the plan with any new funding.
The three-year strategy, published today, asks health, social care, housing and transport to begin designing services around the needs of people with learning disabilities.
It promises to enable one of the most excluded groups in society to “lead their lives like any others” through increased use of advocacy and person-centred planning.
The chief executive of Mencap, Mark Goldring, welcomed the document’s vision of providing people with learning disabilities with a better range of transport and housing options, and support to express opinions, find a job, and enjoy personal relationships.
But he said the charity had “serious reservations” about whether “hard-pressed and under-pressure local authorities” could deliver the reforms.
Jo Williams, co-chair of the Learning Disability Coalition, which represents ten organisations in the field, agreed with the analysis: “It is unrealistic to expect that improved service provision for an increasing number of people can be delivered within the current financial envelope. At the moment resources…are allocated on inadequate and outdated information.”
The publication of the strategy, originally promised in the autumn, was delayed by care services minister Phil Hope because he said the delivery plan needed further development.
Despite this, Williams said the government had failed to analyse “the funding implications of delivering Valuing People Now”.
Hope will be monitoring progress as co-chair of a new national Learning Disability Programme Board, with support from regional boards, while delivery will be led by Anne Williams, national director for learning disabilities.
In local authorities, social workers and managers are asked to have “an increased focus on home ownership” for people with learning disabilities, while transport departments must develop the range of support they need to travel.
Local learning disability partnership boards, which include people with learning disabilities and their carers as members, will even be asked “to develop systems and processes which will enable people with learning disabilities to build and sustain relationships”.
However, James Churchill, chief executive of the Association for Real Change, an umbrella group for more than 400 learning difficulties providers, said £1bn would be needed to make Valuing People Now a reality.