Advocacy service funding for people with learning disabilities has been cut by 15% over the past four years, according to research by Improving Health and Lives.
The learning disability research body’s report, Advocacy by and for adults with learning disabilities in England, surveyed 88 advocacy groups and 78 council commissioners of advocacy services.
This found that from 2009-10 to 2012-13 funding for learning disability specific advocacy services fell by 15.1 per cent as commissioners cut their total spend for self-advocacy organisations and also moved specialist contracts to generic advocacy organisations.
Report author Professor Chris Hatton, from Lancaster University, said: “We found many examples of innovative practice amongst advocacy organisations, but also a real concern from both advocacy organisations and commissioners as to whether funding would continue to be available to support this positive work.”
Among benefits of investing in learning disability specific advocacy services was an increase in take-up of health checks.
The survey of advocacy groups and commissioners found that people with learning disabilities were more likely to receive a wide range of advocacy services – including group and peer support as well as self-advocacy training – from specialist learning disability advocacy organisations.
Generic advocacy services were more likely to specialise in professional advice rather than a wide range of support.
Improving Health and Lives management team member Rob Greig, who is also chief executive of the National Development Team for Inclusion, said the voice of people with learning disabilities would become “weaker” if the move away from commissioning self-advocacy and specialist advocacy support continued.
Vulnerable lose out on advocacy as cuts and demand take toll