Short-term and cost-driven care planning blighting lives of people with learning disabilities

Care of service users planned less than three years ahead in most councils, finds research by learning disability charity

Short-term and cost-driven care planning is blighting the quality of life of people with learning disabilities, a survey of local authorities has found.

Over two-fifths of councils (42%) planned the care of people with learning disabilities just one year ahead, while a further 17% looked only one-to-three years ahead, despite clients having lifelong needs.

Also, almost three-quarters (73%) said cost was a disproportionately influential factor in making decisions about the lives of people with learning disabilities, while 64% admitted that they were under pressure to save money at the expense of quality.

The survey of 100 of England’s 152 local authorities was commissioned by learning disability support provider FitzRoy.

The research found that councils recognised that longer-term planning was vital, with 83% saying admitting that short-term planning led to higher placement costs and 87% feeling that long-term represented the greatest opportunity to improve the lives of people with learning disabilities.

The biggest barrier to long-term planning was a lack of time, which was cited as an issue by 82% of councils, while over half (55%) said they wanted more guidance from central government in planning the needs of people with learning disabilities over the life course.

The survey also identified support from councils for a national measure of quality of life for people with learning disabilities, which three-quarters felt would improve placement stability and two-third felt would reduce long-term care costs.

FitzRoy said the Care Bill provided an opportunity to address the problem, particularly by placing a duty on councils to promote individuals’ wellbeing through the exercise of their adults’ social services functions.

It called on the government to develop specific guidelines for councils to help them understand their duty to promote quality of life for learning disabled people.

“Local government has reached a “crisis point” in social care for adults with learning disabilities, and can no longer afford to make these financially unviable decisions that simultaneously ignore their impact on the individual’s quality of life and wellbeing,” said Anna Galliford, chief executive of FitzRoy.

“With this resounding acknowledgement from local authorities that the current state of social care planning is illogical and unacceptable, and with a new governing framework due to come into force, there really is no better time for the government to make a change.”

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