Social care for people with learning disabilities must be a 2015 election issue
Guest Blog. Mary-Anne Rankin. Consultant and Founding Director Really Useful Stuff
“Good quality social care can be vital to people with learning disabilities but too many are being let down by the system” Jan Tregelles, Chief Executive Mencap
And I, for one, sincerely endorse her.
Meet James, my son, who is 38 and has down’s syndrome
James lives in a Shared Lives setting, and has done so for the past 18 years. Whilst we have no reason to think that this is in jeopardy, there is the constant fear at the back of our minds as to what would happen if for budgetary, or other reasons, he lost his placement. Why should we be worried? Well other resources are being stripped from him, so why shouldn’t this vital one be?
Daytime activities are like hen’s teeth and all supported activities are over subscribed. We are extremely lucky that James’ weekdays are currently meaningfully occupied. He works in a café (as a volunteer) two days a week and for three days goes to a Leonard Cheshire activities centre. But not everyone with a learning disability is so lucky – and it’s those people I worry about most.
A couple of months ago, I read with horror an article by Alice Thomson in The Times entitled ‘This isn’t caring for the fragile. It’s neglect’. I’d give you a link to it but The Times make you pay to read the full article! here is an extract:
‘One man with Down’s syndrome was moved from his rural care home recently where he had many friends and played in a band. Sent to live in a flat next to a busy pub, he returned to his 70-year-old sister, distraught and disorientated. He didn’t have the skills to cook, brush his teeth or even unlock the door, yet a carer came only a couple of times a week.”
Don’t get me wrong. I am very much in favour of independent living, but it must be appropriately supported. And funding is badly needed to provide safe, enriching and skill-building activities to replace the day centres which are being shut down without any alternative being offered to their clients or families.
As Mencap’s CEO says: “We know that the vast majority of the British public have little confidence in the current social care system and that two-thirds of people believe greater government investment is needed. This is something echoed by people with a learning disability and their families, for who good quality social care can be vital.”
And so in the next general election, I’d almost decide who gets my vote on the basis of whether or not their party’s manifesto reflects Mencap’s manifesto.
And I’m not alone – something that the political parties need to be aware.