Learning disabilities cuts risk driving down quality

Council cuts to learning disability services are failing to produce efficiencies and risk driving down quality, a report has concluded.

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Council cuts to learning disability services are failing to produce efficiencies and risk driving down quality, a report has concluded.

The report by social care market analysts Laing and Buisson concluded that the way in which councils were implementing cuts risked putting smaller support providers out of business.

It said there was “significant scope for further savings, to improve efficiency and cost-effectiveness”. However, it warned that many of the cuts now being carried out could result in a reduction in the level and quality of support.

William Laing, chief executive of Laing and Buisson, said: “Unless these issues are better recognised and more holistically addressed, for instance through the provision of extra funding by the Commission on Funding of Care and Support, there is an increasing likelihood that many providers will go out of business.”

Based on interviews with providers, service user representatives and local authority chiefs, the report concluded that support for people with learning disabilities was already low and funding cuts and wider user choice were squeezing provider margins. This, the report said, prevented them investing in improving the quality of care.

It pointed out that commissioning decisions were made largely on price alone with little consideration of the trade-off with quality. It said commissioners had, since the need to make cuts became apparent, abandoned industry standards for care pricing, which allowed providers to reinvest profits in service developments.

The report recommended an overhaul of how personal budgets were calculated. It said using resource allocation systems to attribute points to people on the basis of their needs did not provide a clear indication of how many hours of care people needed.

It said personal budgets should be reformed to take account of the number of hours of professional care required in order to deliver equivalent support for people with the same level of needs.

Support plans should also register the number of unpaid hours of care people receive from family and friends. People moving out of the family home could have these hours added to their personal budget in their new care setting.

Budgets should also include benefits, such as housing benefit, to provide a more-rounded source of support.

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