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|08 Sep 2015|
Does the current way of producing poverty figures underestimates by at least half the number of disabled people and their families who live in poverty and possible by many more?
Currently Scottish Government figures say that 320,000 people who have a disabled person in their household are living in relative poverty. The real figure may be more than 600,000 with many of them having a learning disability.
Current figures understand poverty by setting a poverty line at 60% of average income for a two person family, then adjusting it for different types of family sizes such as single parents with two children or a single person. To get the number of disabled people in poverty, you simply count the number of disabled people in households below this line.
It seem to us that these figures are a serious underestimation because they fail to take account of the extra costs associated with disability. From additional laundry to special diets and extra travel costs, disabled people have to spend more to live the same type of lives as people without a disability. Further for those who rely on social care services, high charges make it worse.
A 2014 report for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found a way of adjusting for this. They excluded “disability costs” benefits such as Disability Living Allowance and Personal Independence Payment from household income, as these are given to meet the extra costs of disability. Their research suggested the number of disabled people in poverty in England was double the official amount, about 2 million in total.
As a result disability could be one of the key indicators of poverty in Scotland and should be given the same attention in anti poverty work as child and pensioner poverty.
The Keys to Life has pledged to improve the health of people with learning disabilities by ensuring that all those who work in health care understand the health needs of people with learning disabilities, how these can differ from the general population and to respond appropriately.
Perhaps these words have never been truer than in the case of Stephen Armstrong of East Kilbride. In 2013, Stephen died from urinary sepsis less than 72 hours after going into hospital. There have been a range of reviews but they have left Stephen’s family unsatisfied and his sister, Katherine is now pushing for a Fatal Accident Inquiry.
Before he went into hospital Stephen enjoyed an active life. He received 24/7 care all of his life and had good health and was never overweight. He attended the gym twice a week, had been at the circus days before he became unwell, and had tickets for the wrestling the day he died.
But in hospital the evidence suggests that nursing and medical staff saw his learning disability first and as a person second. Stephen was in a wheelchair due to a spinal injury but Katherine believes hospital staff saw only a learning disabled man with a temperature who couldn't use his legs and who had a catheter and therefore did not prioritise his treatment.
If they had understood he had a spinal cord injury, it is likely medical staff would immediately start thinking about possible complications. Urinary sepsis is the most common cause of death after spinal injury and any infection would have been treated aggressively.
Stephen was admitted to hospital with a high temperature, drowsiness and possible pneumonia. But it was nearly 22 hours after his admission that he was given intravenous antibiotics and had his catheter changed. Key actions that could have made a real difference for Stephen
Yet Stephen had a health passport—his personal carer stayed with him in hospital—his sister was available for advice—there was a letter from the GP. All things that we are told will make a difference . Is what happened to Stephen “indirect discrimination”? Maybe a Fatal Accident Inquiry could help us all know what needs to be done to meet that Keys To Life pledge.
Our first article is about Disability Hate Crime. This month sees Police Scotland launch it first ever Tackling Hate Crime awareness month with each week featuring different types of hate crime. The first week is on Disability Hate Crime. Earlier this year, new figures showed that reported Disability Hate Crime has gone up by 270%. Read more here.
Our second article is about Poverty and Disabled People. The current way of calculating poverty focuses on income. We think it does not take enough account of disability related expenditure and this means that poverty among disabled people may be twice as much as the official figures suggest. Because this is a difficult subject there is a link to more detailed information at the bottom of the online article.
Our third article is about the treatment of Stephen Armstrong. Stephen died in hospital in circumstances that might not have occurred if hospital staff had had a better understanding of learning disability. This is a controversial subject that is may yet be subject to a Fatal Accident Inquiry. There are links to additional reports and newspaper reports at the bottom of the online article.
Finally there is a short note in the printed newsletter that we will be launching a national survey in the autumn of this year to find out the experience of people with learning disabilities and their families about the treatment they have had from the NHS. We want to find out what lies behind the numbers. You will be able to answer a short questionnaire, tell us your story, come to meetings to talk to other people about these and share ways of making things better.
All our online articles can be read aloud simply by highlighting the text and then clicking it.
The Learning Disability Alliance Scotland June newsletter has been published today. If you want to listen to a copy you can click on the audio version here.
The first article is on the large number of older and disabled people all over Scotland who are unable or unwilling to pay care charges for social care services. Read it here
The second article looks at the planned cuts in learning disability services planned by local councils in the current financial year. Read it here.
And remember you can have all the articles on our website read aloud by highlighting the text and then clicking on it
A recent petition was heard at the Scottish Parliament arguing that there should be more care home provision for people with profound learning disabilities. (see our full response)
As an organisation we do not think people with learning disabilities flourish in large care homes. Small care homes for 4 or 5 people can be indistinguishable from many ordinary houses in the community and can allow individual many more opportunities to be part of the local society. Small care homes also offer their residents regular opportunities for social interactions which may be hard for them in other situations.
Scot Excel, the Scottish procurement body has already taken on comments like this and is currently finalising a framework agreement to improve the quality of new care services that are purchased by local authorities to meet the needs to people with learning disabilities that they are responsible for.
The official figures say the numbers who stay in care homes for people with learning disabilities fell by about 20% in the 3 years up to 2014. However almost half of this fall is due to just 5 big homes changing— 2 homes closed because of poor quality care and 3 homes changed their client groups to others such as “older people”.
We are already know that many other people with learning disabilities end up in large homes registered for older people. Currently there are 250 large homes registered for older people (over 20 residents) supporting up to 1,000 adults with learning disabilities.
With many local authorities setting a maximum rate for individual Self Directed Support Budgets at the level of the local residential care home rate, we think this means that there will be more pressure on people with greater needs to move into residential care homes.
We must plan properly for people’s needs and stop placing people on the basis of where there is a vacancy.
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