Disabled people could be stranded in unemployment because jobs support services are being devastated by local authority spending cuts, a study has found.
More than half of supported employment providers are facing local authority funding cuts of at least 15% , according to the poll by industry body the British Association for Supported Employment (BASE).
A quarter of providers said they were facing council cuts of between 50% and 100% prompting some to predict that their service would close.
Others were making redundancies and stripping back provision even though caseloads were rising.
BASE chief executive Huw Davies admitted surprise at the size of the cuts. “The worry is that the timing of it is not great,” he said. “There’s more competition for jobs and without the support some people are not going to get work.”
Davies said some local authorities were stopping provision because they saw this area as already covered by the government’s national Work Choice programme aimed at finding jobs for disabled people.
However, he argued that local authorities were being short-sighted in refusing to fund supported employment, citing evidence from Kent Council that investing in supported employment could bring savings.
The council concluded last summer that supported employment provided savings to the public purse of £3,564 for each person helped each year, including up to £1,200 a person for the local authority.
Davies said the cuts had not been thought through. “We are going to lose expertise and links. If in three to four years councils want to re-establish services they will have to start from scratch,” he said.
The results of today’s study follow news that one-fifth of social care providers are set to close due to fee cuts and 90% charities expect their funding to be reduced this year.
However, John Nawrockyi, chair of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services’ physical disabilities network, said councils had few options when budgets were tight and this was just one area that was under pressure.
“Where supported employment is linked into the personalisation agenda that should give them some degree of protection because people can get funding for it through their individual budget,” he said.
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