Experts warn of postcode lottery in learning disability services

Learning disabled service users face a postcode lottery in support because the government is to axe the team delivering the Valuing People Now strategy, experts have warned.

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Learning disabled service users face a postcode lottery in support because the government is to axe the team delivering the Valuing People Now strategy, experts have warned.

Earlier today, the Department of Health confirmed the team will be disbanded by April, 12 months before the three-year programme ends.

Local learning disability partnership boards are expected to lead delivery of the strategy.

“This is going to mean there’s more of a postcode lottery in terms of what people can access in different areas,” said Anthea Sully, director of the Learning Disability Coalition, which represents charities, providers and service user groups.

She said it was “deeply concerning”, when put alongside the government’s localism agenda, to devolve power over public services to local areas “because the support that people need is going to fall through the gaps”.

Sully added: “All the progress that has been made could be lost because of this.”

Beatrice Barleon, senior campaigns officer at Mencap, criticised the government’s reliance on local partnership boards to improve services because they have no statutory power to change how services are delivered.

She said she was also concerned that there would no longer be anyone to champion the needs of people with learning disabilities in the Department of Health.

“So much time, commitment and resource has gone into establishing structures and projects across different regions, we want to ensure that the momentum is not lost,” said Sarah Lambert, head of policy at the National Autistic Society.

The cut is one of several to central policy teams in the Department of Health. Similar concerns were expressed over the loss of the National Mental Health Development Unit, which has helped to implement mental health policy, and cuts to the team tasked with helping to increase access to talking therapies.

Though rolling out talking therapies to all who need it is the key pledge in the government’s mental health strategy, published last month, the team is losing 11 of its 14 members, raising doubts over the implementation of the strategy.

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