Social care cuts left people with a learning disability 'forgotten' in lockdown, survey suggests

Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Daniel Hewitt

More than 65% of people with a learning disability had their social care slashed by at least half during the coronavirus pandemic, a survey suggests.

Charity Mencap asked 1,069 people across the UK about their experiences of caring for someone with a learning disability during the Covid-19 crisis.

More than two thirds (67%) said their loved ones’ needs have increased during the pandemic, while 79% have had no choice but to increase the amount of care and support they offer.

According to the charity, 65.3% of family members and carers said the amount of social care support their loved one receives from the local authority has decreased a lot – meaning they receive half or less than half the hours they received before the pandemic.

Some 3.9% said their hours have decreased a little, meaning they receive less than before, but more than half the hours they used to.

Mencap said that cuts to day services, personal care in the home and respite for carers have had a devastating impact on people with a learning disability and their families, leaving them still in lockdown despite the easing of official restrictions.

Families fear that cash-strapped local councils will have no choice but to make further cuts as lockdown eases.

Almost three quarters (72%) of family carers surveyed are worried that there will be more cuts to care packages to come, with some reporting that their loved ones’ day support services have already been forced to close for good during lockdown.

Jamie has cerebral palsy and epilepsy. He lives in a care home with 24 hour assistance which allows him, outside of lockdown, to live an active life.

But during the pandemic, a lack of carers meant he was unable to leave the home or receive visitors for 13 weeks.

His mother, Madeleine Walker told ITV News: "People like Jamie were just forgotten.

"There was no mention that these people may need extra support, that maybe they would feel depressed, maybe they would feel anxiety, maybe they'll be feeling scared.

"For me, my life went on to a certain degree but Jamie's life it felt he was just existing.

"We missed him, and he felt we didn't love him any more because he couldn't come home."

Edel Harris, chief executive of Mencap, said: “I am really shaken by the results of this survey.

“We knew it was bad, but no-one could hear these stories without feeling ashamed to be part of a society that allows this to go on.

“Social care has had decades of underinvestment, and we have been warning about the system being at breaking point for years – but here are clear signs that the system has broken and people with a learning disability and their families are paying the price.

“Mencap will not stand by and allow this to happen.

“Social care needs significant investment now and a bold plan for reform in the future. People with a learning disability and their families must not be left behind in lockdown.”

Care minister Helen Whately told ITV News: "It's been really hard during the pandemic for people receive social care at home particularly in fact those who also receive care from unpaid carers.

"For instance day services were also unable to open during the peak because of the risks to some people who might have had extra risks to people say who were shielding in the event that they got Covid. 

"So we know that it's been really hard, I'm pushing local authorities and local services to reopen and to make sure that there is that support in place for those who need care in the months ahead."

A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said: "We are committed to supporting those with learning disabilities, autism and complex needs as well as those who care for them, and their interests will remain a priority throughout our recovery from the current healthcare emergency.

"We recognise the significant challenges facing the social care sector and have made £3.7 billion available to local authorities so they can address pressures on local services caused by the pandemic, including in adult social care."