Staff delivering the key government programme to improve the lives of people with learning disabilities have been told their jobs could be axed, Community Care has learned.
Valuing People Now, a three-year strategy introduced by the previous government in January 2009, has been put on a list of programmes under review by the Department of Health, a move charities say threatens the welfare of those supported.
The strategy aims to boost the life chances of learning disabled people by giving them more control over their care and support, improving their healthcare and enhancing employment opportunities.
James Churchill, chief executive of The Association for Real Change, an umbrella body for learning disability care providers, said the news was “depressing”.
“We are going to be in the worst of positions if we are not very careful with a Rolls-Royce policy document without the means to get on and deliver it,” he said.
Anthea Cox, director of the Learning Disability Coalition, which includes 15 charities and sector bodies, said cuts to the programme would be “short-sighted and disastrous”, adding to costs as they would stop people getting into employment and away from state-provided services.
Members of the Valuing People Now team, which is responsible for business planning, communications and producing publications, face redundancy. The team includes national learning disability directors Anne Williams and Scott Watkin and nine regional leads.
Dave Spencer, regional Valuing People Now lead in the North West, confirmed he had received one of the letters. “Every regionally-funded programme is under scrutiny. We are just in the same position as everyone else,” he said.
Beatrice Barleon, senior policy officer at Mencap, said the charity had received assurances from the Valuing People Now programme board, which oversees the programme, that funding would continue until at least March 2011. The strategy is due to run until 2012.
A Department of Health spokesperson said: “The department is currently reviewing all business planning processes as part of the efficiency measures being rolled out across government. This includes looking at individual programmes of work.”
Other national programmes facing cuts
A number of national social care programmes have already been cut. The Independent Living Fund, which provides cash payments to fund care for severely disabled people, has ceased accepting new applications for funds this year. Meanwhile, the government has stopped subsidising adult social care employers to take on young unemployed recruits under the Care First Careers scheme.