People with learning disabilities and their families have issued a damning verdict on the impact that the current government’s policies have had on their lives, research shows.
The Learning Disability Alliance’s survey of 1,924 people asked respondents to rate the coalition government’s record on 12 measures of quality including rights, advocacy and support. The result was an overall score of 2 out of 10 – the second lowest rating possible. Half of the respondents were people with learning disabilities and another 27% were families or carers.
The government scored worst on income, taxes and work. Respondents raised a series of concern over the impact that welfare cuts and a lack of job opportunities have had on people with learning disabilities. Official figures published in November last year showed that the proportion of people with substantial learning disabilities who were in paid work fell from 7% in 2012-13 to 6.8% in 2013-14.
In response to the findings, the government said it would soon be consulting on a green paper outlining potential legal reforms designed to strengthen the rights of people with learning disabilities.
Norman Lamb, the minister for care and support, said: “We know that more needs to be done to make sure people with learning disabilities are treated with compassion, dignity and respect. We are soon to announce a consultation which aims to give people with learning disabilities and their families more rights and more control over their lives and care.”
‘A breadth of damage’
Simon Duffy, director of the centre for welfare reform and part of the alliance, said that the results demonstrated the “breadth of damage” that some government policies have had on people with learning disabilities.
“Importantly, the findings show that this isn’t only about health and social care but also issues like unemployment and benefit cuts. All of these things have been going backwards over the past five years,” he said.
Asked whether the government’s forthcoming green paper would address some of the concerns raised in the survey, Duffy said: “The DH is responsible for only a fraction of the things that impact the lives of people with learning disabilities and it’s shown no ability to safeguard the things it is responsible for, never mind things it isn’t responsible for, such as welfare cuts and employment.
“So it is hard to imagine that a new DH policy initiative, particularly one issued just before an election, will make a substantial difference.”
Simon Cramp, another member of the alliance, said: “We hope that politicians take notice of the finding. We need to see people with learning disabilities getting their voices heard in the political arena as part of the wider agenda around equalities and rights.”