October's comprehensive spending review included cuts to local government funding and changes to the welfare system, which could have a significant impact on people with a learning disability.
In the comprehensive spending review (CSR) on 20 October, Chancellor George Osborne announced a programme of cuts. "It is a hard road," he admitted, "but it leads to a better future." Exactly how hard the road will be for people with a learning disability remains to be seen, but the plans will certainly impact on the services they use.
The Chancellor revealed a 7.1% annual cut in local council funding over the next four years - more than a quarter of their funding by the end of that period. In addition, most local government spending will no longer be ring-fenced, which removes any obligation to protect funding for specific areas. Together, these measures could mean that social care services will be at risk.
The government has promised an extra £2 billion for social care - £1 billion direct to local authorities and £1 billion via the NHS budget to incentivise joint working between health and social care. However, this funding is not ring-fenced, and Mencap believes that it will not be enough to secure the social care services that people with a learning disability need.
"There will still be a significant amount of unmet need, as much of this money will be directed towards the increasingly elderly population," Mencap's president Lord Rix said in a letter to Minister for Disabled People Maria Miller. "Social care has long been the Cinderella service of local government. Following the CSR, this situation is likely to get worse."
This view is supported by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), which had warned of a £5.7 billion shortfall in adult social care funding in its submission to the CSR. "Given the challenges at a local level to make major reductions, we are likely to still see a funding gap over the four years," says ADASS president Richard Jones, "and bridging that gap is going to take a great deal of skill, innovation and fundamental reform."