Cuts ‘could deny independence’ to learning disabled people

More people with learning disabilities could be denied their wish to live independently because of government welfare cuts and a shortage of housing for the client group, Mencap has warned.

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More people with learning disabilities could be denied their wish to live independently because of government welfare cuts and a shortage of housing for the client group, Mencap has warned.

Two-thirds of councils say it has become more difficult in the past year for people with learning disabilities to have their needs met, while 82% say there is a shortage of suitable housing, according to findings published by the charity today.

However, while three-quarters of people with learning disabilities surveyed by Mencap wanted to live independently, proposed cuts and reforms to housing benefit could prevent many from fulfilling this ambition, said the charity.

Reforms that Mencap are concerned about include:

• Plans in the Welfare Reform Bill to restrict housing benefit payments for social housing tenants based on the size of the household from 2013 onwards, so that one bedroom is allocated per person or couple. Significant numbers of those affected will be disabled people.

• Plans, also in the bill, to limit increases in housing benefit in the private sector to increases in the consumer price index, rather than average rent levels, which are typically higher.

• Proposed changes to the system of “exempt accommodation”, where extra housing benefit payments are given to ensure disabled or vulnerable people can be housed in appropriate accommodation. The proposals are currently under consultation and though there are no plans to cut spending overall, Mencap is concerned that people with learning disabilities could be adversely affected.

“We know the vast majority of people with a learning disability want to have the opportunity to live more independently but without urgent action from central government and local authorities it is doubtful this aspiration will be realised, and more people with a learning disability may end up living with their parents into old age,” said Mencap national campaigns manager Dan Scorer.

The research found that of 172,000 people with learning disabilities known to social services in England and Wales, 38% live with family or friends, 22% in care homes, 16% in supported accommodation and 12% as tenants in local authority or housing association-provided accommodations.

The research for Mencap, by Cordis Bright Consulting, was based on findings from all 174 councils across England and Wales.

For the latest policy and practice on learning disabilities, attend Community Care’s conference, Valuing People Now?, on 7 December in London.

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