Whilst the focus for many today may be on Brexit, ours remains firmly on learning disability.

United Response’s Operations Director, Sarah Battershall, gave evidence today to the Public Accounts Committee on the important issue of the Government’s transforming care agenda and whether the quality of care for people with learning disabilities is improving.

The Goverment’s programme to move people with complex needs out of long stay institutions was the subject of a recent NAO report, as well as several previous enquiries. The report ‘Local support for people with a learning disability’ found that whilst some progress had been made in reducing the number of people in Assessment and Treatment Units, some 2,500 people continue to reside in these hospitals and a further 28,000 people living in the community are at risk of being admitted every day.

United Response was asked to present its concerns around transforming care, and highlight areas where it felt the programme could be improved.

Urgent funding issues

Speaking on the issue, Sarah drew the committee’s attention to the funding issues currently facing the social care sector. Issues, which if not addressed as a matter of urgency, could have a detrimental effect on the level of community provision available for those currently in long stay institutions.

Reform of housing benefit

She also commented on the need for the Government to reconsider its recent reform of housing benefit, which could result in a shortage of suitable supported housing stock and leave many people with learning disabilities with housing costs which they are unable to cover.

On the matter of commissioning, the need for planned geographical commissioning carried out by specialist learning disability commissioners was raised.

‘Where it is not planned, is where it goes wrong’

Summing up, Sarah Battershall said:

“As a sector we have a long history of supporting people to move out of institutions, and we know the real difference that getting it right can make. But we need to sort out who is going to pay for it and ensure we are working together. Where it is not planned, is where it goes wrong. Commissioning must be collaborative and issues such as housing must be addressed.”

Watch the evidence session