Short-term planning blights the lives of people with learning disabilities



In a bid to understand how local authority pressures are affecting the 1.14 million people with learning disabilities in England, FitzRoy spoke to 100 of England's 152 local authorities about social care decision-making.

We found that the focus on spending cuts in local government is creating systemic pressures leading to short-term planning for adults with learning disabilities. Despite clients with learning disabilities having lifelong needs, 42% of councils plan their care only one year ahead, while a further 17% look one to three years ahead, and 19% admit that quality of life does not influence their assessment of services.

Having provided support services for people with learning disabilities for more than 50 years, FitzRoy knows that long-term planning has a big impact on the stability and wellbeing of individuals with lifelong care needs.

For example, many parents tell us they fear the consequences for their child after they die; sometimes they tell us that they hope their child dies first because they are so worried about an uncertain future for them. This is an unimaginable thought for most parents and just one of the unforeseen consequences of short-term planning. Many parents are reassured by long-term care packages. Worryingly, however, 29% of local authorities told us they do not consider the death of a parent, often a key carer and source of support, to be a significant event.

Such short-term planning not only ignores the critical life stages of an individual; it is a false economy, with 83% of local authorities admitting that it is leading to higher long-term costs, and 60% saying it leads to emergency care decisions.

Surprisingly, it is not just money that is causing this dire situation. While cost is the overriding consideration, deemed influential or very influential by 94% of local authorities, 82% said time is one of the main barriers to long-term planning.

The good news is that the vast majority (94%) of local authorities acknowledged that long-term planning is essential, and are ready and willing to address these challenges with the right support. They believe, rightly so, that long-term planning presents the single greatest opportunity to improve quality of life for people with learning disabilities and they know that short-term planning leads to higher placement costs. If the local authorities are telling us that the current state of social care planning is illogical and unacceptable, we must seize the moment and make it a priority to work towards a new governing framework.

The government must address this problem now and make a change before local authorities reach a crisis point in providing care for adults with learning disabilities, and more lives are blighted and money wasted. It is good that the care bill places a duty on councils to promote individual wellbeing through the exercise of adult social services. It is not so good that as many as a third (36%) of local authorities are not aware the bill will require them to promote individual wellbeing, and of those that are aware, a quarter do not feel prepared to fulfil this legal duty.

Interestingly, the majority believe that a universal measure of quality of life would have dramatic, positive effects on the quality and effectiveness of social care, including improving placement stability (74% agreed) and reducing long-term care costs (67% agreed).

The ideas behind quality of service and service excellence are not new, but they must be accompanied by quality of life considerations, when making social care decisions. To avoid confusion, clearer definitions of wellbeing need to be put in place, which is why FitzRoy is calling on the government to develop specific guidelines for councils to help them understand and embed their duty to promote quality of life for learning disabled people.

Long-term planning is at the heart of how FitzRoy successfully supports more than 550 adults with learning disabilities, across 60 services, to live healthy and happy lives. In our experience, long-term planning is the difference between merely existing and living. We want to work with local authorities to achieve this for everyone with a learning disability.

Source; The Guardian

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