Earlier this year, Edinburgh Council announced they were going to cut £15 million from the social work budget including nearly £3 million for support packages for people with learning disabilities and other support needs. The Self Directed Support system which had been running for just over 12 months was to be overhauled, budgets were to be cut by 20% and a streamlined review process was to find ways to cut back support packages, one by one. New teams of social workers charged with leading the reviews were organised. It was to be a new approach. And unsurprisingly first reports were worrying with one of the new social workers putting it, “After all, do you know how much it costs to keep people with learning disabilities.”
Fortunately wiser heads have prevailed. Long standing members of the council have been able to step in and counsel for a more measured approach to reviews. People who know the individuals well are now leading the reviews. Many of the early reviews which proposed big cuts in services have not been progressed. The Finance and Resources Committee acknowledges that it is likely that the savings target will not be met. Many families and people with learning disabilities have breathed a big sigh of relief.
But its not over yet and the proposals to cut are likely to be revisited again. There are also a number of other efforts under way which will affect people with learning disabilities adversely.
A new assisted transport policy means that people with high rate DLA mobility are now expected to make their own way to support services (transport will not be supplied).
Day services will be reviewed throughout Edinburgh with the aim of closing a number of local authority run centres and the remainder now specialising in supporting those with complex needs.
A maximum budget of £26,070 is set for those with the most complex needs – a lot less for many others.
Changes in the assessment process will limit help to only those carers who provide “substantial support on a regular basis.”
It is hard to see how we will ever see a “Fairer Scotland” when this scale of local authority attacks on the vital social care that people with learning disabilities need is under way.