The new director of the Learning Disability Coalition has vowed to lobby MPs from all parties over an estimated £200m annual shortfall in services for the client group, ahead of next year’s general election.
Speaking a week after her appointment, Anthea Cox warned that the promised white paper on adult care, due before the election, could be a “terribly missed opportunity” unless it included increased funding and support for people with learning disabilities.
Cox, who previously worked for the Methodist Church, repeated criticisms that last month’s green paper on the future funding on adult care focused too heavily on the financing of older people’s care. The paper sparked what the government has labelled as the Big Care Debate, involving a series of consultation events around the country.
‘Big debate excludes learning disabled’
However, Cox said: “The main questions the government is consulting around are not particularly relevant to people with a learning disability.”
According to research published by the LDC last year, the number of adults with learning disabilities needing care is expected to increase by between 3% and 5% a year between 2009-26, leading to increased demand for services.
Cox confirmed that the coalition would be attending the forthcoming party conferences to lobby MPs ahead of the general election.
LDC wins backing of over 200 MPs
An LDC-sponsored early day motion, published last December, calling on the government to address funding shortfalls in learning disability services in the green paper, has received 202 signatures from MPs from all sides.
She said: “We are in interesting political times at the moment. Our research has been very influential. The funding shortfall has been widely understood as an issue, specifically on the projections of how many people will need social care support in the future. We need to make sure that that understanding is followed through with action.
“Very sadly the next stage should have been seeing that flow through into the green paper and we’re disappointed that it hasn’t been taken up.
“It’s important that all politicians, regardless of party affiliation, understand that and our intention over the next few months is to build relationships with as many MPs as possible so that they understand what the key issues are and that people with a learning disability don’t fall off the agenda. That’s absolutely key.”
The LDC, which is made up of 15 organisations including Mencap and the National Autistic Society, is currently using its networks to reply to a consultation on the green paper before the 13 November deadline.
Cox added: “One of the exciting things for me about coming into the post is working in a coalition. We’ve a much stronger voice because we are so many organisations and we are quite diverse in the focus of those organisations. I have great confidence that by working in this way we can ensure that our voice is heard because there’s strength in that we represent many thousands of people.”
Mencap consultation on green paper
Meanwhile, Mencap has also started a consultation to ensure people with learning disabilities and their families and carers have their say on the green paper proposals.
The initiative, which runs until 25 September, includes online polls targeted at service users, carers, professionals or members of local Mencap groups. People are also invited to take part in focus groups.
New director for the Learning Disability Coalition