Tuesday, 17 May 2022
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Tuesday, 17 May 2022

New figures highlight how social care has been ‘ravaged by the pandemic’

NEW figures from Mencap confirm fears that people with a learning disability are stuck in lockdown and carers are burnt out due to significant reductions in social care support.

Mencap is warning that people with a learning disability cannot be left behind and locked down – and the Government must commit urgent funding for social care in the Spring Budget.

The charity surveyed 580 family carers of people with a learning disability across the UK, with over 70% (71.5%) of family members saying their loved ones spend less time outside of the house compared to before the pandemic, and half of (50%) families saying reduced social care support is part of the issue. Of these families, 42% reported their support had decreased ‘a lot’ since the COVID pandemic started.

However the lack of support given is not due to a reduction in need – in the vast majority of cases (88%), it was not because of a reassessment. Instead, people with a learning disability are finding themselves without crucial help they’ve been told they’re entitled to, due to services being temporarily or permanently closed or reduced (64%) and a lack of staff (47%). Some families described the lack of social interaction as causing their loved ones to feel depressed, isolated and abandoned.

It is also having a dramatic impact on carers. Of the family members who said their loved ones are spending less time out of the house, almost seven in ten carers (69%) reported feeling burnt out – with a quarter (25%) saying they always feel burnt out. Almost half (46%) reported feeling lonely and a third (33%) said they rarely or never feel happy.

Helen, whose daughter Amanda’s support was reduced significantly during COVID, said:

“The support has increased a bit in the last year but it’s nothing like the support she got before. This has left us shattered, we’re on our knees. It has definitely taken it out on us and taken years off our life. My husband and I have at least been able to support each other – we wouldn’t be able to cope on our own and I do worry about those who might not have family support.”

“It’s affected Amanda’s confidence, it’s gone. Her mobility is definitely affected. She also seems to have lost her social skills. I don’t know how we will get it back. If you lose skills we have spent 49 years building, it’s hard to put them back. That’s my worry. Her mental health has without a doubt been affected also.” 

Another family carer said:

“Trying to get my son back to how he was before is a struggle with less support for him and I am tired as a carer. Not much support out there and if there is it’s taking months, years to access. I’ve lost a big part of my son, rebuilding is exhausting and it breaks my heart to see him like this.”

Edel Harris OBE, Chief Executive of the learning disability charity Mencap, said: 

“These figures show a sector that was on its knees before COVID and which has now been ravaged by the pandemic – and people with a learning disability and their families are paying the price.

“I know that the Chancellor has some tough decisions to make in this Spring Budget and that, whilst a war is raging and cost of living is rising, things are extremely tight for everyone. But please don’t turn your back on people with a learning disability and their families, many of whom rely on some form of social care to live. We are all enjoying the fact that COVID restrictions have been lifted, but we must not forget that for some people life hasn’t returned to anything like normal – and they are still stuck at home and in desperate need of support.

“We all know how difficult it was during lockdown to be cut off from the people around us and, with so many services still shut and not enough staff to go around, this is still the reality for many people with a learning disability – with no sign of it changing soon. With the right support, people with a learning disability can live brilliant, fulfilled, independent and healthy lives, but without it, many struggle, leading to a deterioration of their physical and mental health.”

Even before the pandemic, an £8 billion investment in social care in England was needed just to take the system back to the same level of quality and access it was in 2009/10 – and now more people than ever are missing out on the care they need.

The charity is calling for an urgent cash injection for social care in this Wednesday’s Spring Budget so people can get back the support they’ve lost. The Government must give local authorities the support they need to be able to invest in their local areas, fund care providers properly, and ultimately open up social care again.

The charity’s figures also highlight yet again the huge workforce shortages in the sector – and that these are part of the reason why people’s support is being reduced. With poor pay and little financial incentive to join the sector, Mencap is also urging longer-term funding ​targeted at supporting decent pay rises for social care workers.

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