People with learning disabilities take part in ‘Activity and Action’ day to help Westminster City Councillors to understand the effect of their services being ‘reclassified’.
Event date: Wednesday 22nd December 2010 – the day the results of public consultation announced
Location: City Living, 389a Harrow Road, London, W9 3NA
Time: 12 midday
Date 20th December 2010 – People with learning disabilities, some of whom may lose their support and homes if Westminster City Council vote to remove the moderate category of entitlement to services, will be attending a special workshop to help them to write to local councillors asking them to think again before they finally vote in January. The workshop will support families, friends and carers of people with learning disabilities in the borough who have expressed their concern and distress about the proposals to reclassify services so that a whole section of their community will stop receiving vital support. The day follows a delegation to Westminster City Council offices on 8th December to present a petition with more than 1,000 signatures which underlined local unease at the proposals. The Westminster Society and its service users are hopeful that once they fully understand the impact of any decision councilors will vote to continue to support some of their most vulnerable residents.
Gabby Machell, Chief Executive, Westminster Society for People with Learning Disabilities said: ‘We fully understand that times are tough and we like many charities are maximising our resources while minimising costs but this discussion is masking the effects of decisions to reclassify who does and who doesn’t get support. A major factor of the Big Society agenda is for organisations such as ours to deliver more support as demand increases and take some of the burden off local authorities and government but the reality is that a proportion of the people we help will be cut out under these proposals and will simply present themselves somewhere else in the care or emergency support system over time. Many of the people we support find it difficult to carry out basic functions that we take for granted and writing is one of them. This workshop provides them with the support they need to get their voices heard, otherwise many could find themselves alone and unable to cope’. It’s apt to combine this Action with a day of Activity which will support information sharing for people who are desperately worried about the outcomes of the consultation to be announced on that day.’
The Council’s proposal to only support people considered to have ‘substantial’ or ‘critical’ learning disabilities is likely to cause severe long term damage to people with moderate learning disabilities. ‘The withdrawal of support for this vulnerable group jeopardizes personal achievements, and their quality of life. You cannot take people with lifetime disabilities out of the social care system and expect them to just get on with life’. Added Ms Machell. And it seems that while the general public understand the vulnerability of people with learning disabilities there is still a low level of understanding about the real day to day issues that people who live with learning disabilities face. Research carried out on behalf of the Westminster Society for People with Learning Disabilities demonstrates that as many as one in three (67%) adults in London think that someone with moderate learning disabilities is either probably or definitely at risk of being exploited either financially, sexually or physically if they don’t receive support. But, the research also highlighted a chasm in the understanding of the general public challenges that someone with moderate learning disabilities faces:
More than four in ten (43%) adults in London do not fully appreciate that someone with a moderate learning disability might be at risk of becoming homeless and sleeping rough if they do not receive support. Without support to budget, pay rent, bills etc. there is a real risk that a person will become homeless subject to bailiff action and debt collection and county court actions
Nearly seven in ten adults (69%) in London understand that someone with moderate learning disabilities is either probably (46%) or definitely (23%) are at risk of being exploited either financially, sexually or physically if they don’t receive support.
Over one in two people in London (53%) do not fully appreciate that someone with moderate learning disabilities who does not get support will use the emergency services more.
Over one in four (27%) adults in London don’t fully realise that someone might lose vital skills such as cooking, cleaning, budgeting and taking care of themselves if they have what are described as simply moderate learning disabilities and are not supported.
Eight in ten adults in London (89%) understand that someone with moderate learning disabilities will see their physical and mental health deteriorate if they don’t receive support.
Westminster City Council entered into formal consultation with residents of Westminster in September. The results of this consultation are to be announced on December 22nd, and a meeting of the cabinet is to be held in January. The consultation document (Seeking Your Views) states that this is because Westminster City Council needs to focus its reduced resources on those who are most in need and most vulnerable. But a report by the Commission for Social Care Inspection[i] (CSCI (now the Care Quality Commission) CQC) identified a lack of transparency and clarity in the way councils conducted the process to determine eligibility and a lack of fairness in the way that criteria are applied. Another report shows gaping holes in the budget savings that councils think they can make. Commission for Social Care report titled: Cutting the Cake Fairly[ii] concluded that much of what is proposed in this report is a restatement of councils’ existing responsibilities, and indicates that poor practices around assessment and eligibility can lead to lower costs initially but higher ones later as people return with greater needs to the social care system.
‘It is just a matter of time before these vulnerable people move into crisis situations and return to social care in an indirect way – healthcare, Accident and Emergency, homelessness and social services will all come into play in one way or another. We are asking Westminster City Council to listen and see that this move will not save money. People with learning disabilities in Westminster are asking to not be left stranded “they won’t go away and neither will their needs’ concluded Ms Machell.
[i] 2010: Impact Assessment of the revision of the Fair Access to Care Services (FACS) guidance; version 1.0; 19
[ii] 2008:7.6 – Commission for social care – Cutting the Cake Fairly
2050 adults aged 18 and over were interviewed online by Populus between 3rd and 5th December 2010.