UK – Are people with intellectual disabilities will continue to fall outside of support?

To read on The Guardian website:

Note: In the UK, the term of ‘Learning disability’ is used instead of ‘Intellectual disability’.

For social care to thrive it needs a community-centred revolution

A new approach is needed bringing together families, friends and neighbours, coordinated by care workers

support

‘The role of paid staff would shift from hands-on support to helping to map the relationships in a person’s life.’ Photograph: Alamy

For those of us working in social care, the last couple of years have been the toughest in living memory. From reports revealing the underfunding of services through to deepening staff shortages, it’s hard to see where any help and relief for the sector will come from. Particularly as there’s no end in sight to the government’s spending squeeze.

Despite such a grim backdrop, many of us in this amazing industry remain resolute in our mission to deliver outstanding services to those in need. Times might be hard, but it hasn’t stopped us from asking what we can do to ensure we improve services and the lives of those who need support.

Without much-needed financial investment, our sector finds itself having to be resourceful in ways it has never before imagined. We need to look at other ways to get the job done. And it has to be done, because what we’re talking about here is protecting extremely vulnerable individuals and potentially the communities they live in.

A way to achieve this could be through empowering social care professionals to become hubs for community networks, bringing together and coordinating people from a range of backgrounds to provide support. It already happens to a degree, but its potential has yet to be fully mined.

I was part of a recent Voluntary Organisations Disability Group event aimed at getting the industry’s collective views into the Civil Society Futures National Conversation. This inquiry has had many discussions with communities nationally, including church, neighbourhood and volunteering groups, in order to inform a research project and present a range of views and knowledge to a wider audience via an online “civil society hub”.

There was a disheartening discussion about how people with learning disabilities will continue to fall outside of support paid for by local authorities due to the tightening of eligibility criteria. At present, 90% of local authorities only provide support to those falling into the “critical” and “substantial” categories. This means that people unable to perform daily routines – such as washing themselves or housework – will be without any support until they get into trouble. This is a cruel situation and we at Vibrance think it is putting people’s lives at risk. Those of us at the event concluded that in order to provide the vital assistance these people need, care has to come from three main areas: family, friends and neighbours.

We all recalled acts of friendliness and support towards people with a disability involving shopkeepers, churchgoers, the post office and more. All were genuine and, most importantly, non-patronising. But who takes on the role of harnessing this support and ensuring it continues? Often, relatives don’t have the answer, particularly with career pressures and the diffuse family networks created by modern life.

In order to make this vision a reality, we really need the sector’s leaders to lobby for a new strategy and framework for social care that acknowledges the financial reality but argues that quality of life for people with a disability need not necessarily reduce if we focus on the role of civil society and Community Connecting. This approach is well-suited to the current state of social care, one that puts personal relationships – again think shopkeepers, fellow churchgoers, friends – at the heart of any support plan.

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