Fatal lack of support

The case of Wendolyn Markcrow, who killed her son after 36 years of struggling to care for him despite his severe learning difficulties, was heart-rending. Yet in the same week that a court spared her a jail sentence, with the judge suggesting that a lack of support helped push her to the end of her tether, central government accused local authorities of failing to embrace efficiency savings with enough enthusiasm.

As our article on the local government funding black hole highlights, the main upward cost pressure for councils is learning difficulties. And although Buckinghamshire Council maintains it did what it could for Wendolyn, the Association of Directors of Social Services has raised fears that provision for people with learning difficulties is facing a cash crisis.

In such a climate, family carers of people with severe learning difficulties are an easy target for cuts. But before ministers dismiss local authority fears about lack of cash as “fantasy”, perhaps they should look again at the Markcrow case and reflect on the horrendous consequences that can ensue from failing to support vulnerable people. If keeping down council tax bills means cutting services to families such as these perhaps it’s too high a price to pay.

See news analysis, and The Simon Heng column.

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