Menu

Totally Wrong List

Editor: Simon Duffy

This document was developed by members of Learning Disability Alliance England in the run up to the 2015 General Election. It attempts to summarise all the bad Government policies that harm the lives and rights of people with learning disabilities. In the first part we’ve listed the wrongs in plain English. The second part provides links to the documents or reports that describe these wrongs in more detail.

51 Wrongs - Plain English Summary

Attacks on human rights

1. Disabled people have been the top target for government cuts – people with severe disabilities are facing cuts 6 times greater than those faced by the average person.

2. Self-advocacy, supporting people to stick up for their own rights, has been radically cut – locally and nationally – with 23 projects closing in just one year.

3. Independent advocacy has also been cut, and there is inadequate access support for people who have problems of mental capacity or mental health.

4. It is now much harder to get Legal Aid to defend your rights in court and there has been a reduction of welfare benefit legal aid providers from 359 in 2011-12 to only 11 by 2013-14.

5. Charities are often too frightened to speak out against what is happening – many fear losing funding others fear the new gagging laws make it impossible for them to say what they think.

6. Sanctions and benefit reductions are being imposed by the DWP without any chance for people to speak up for themselves.

7. Mental capacity legislation is not used properly. Too often people are denied the right to make decisions for themselves or the wrong people are making decisions on their behalf.

Growing inequality and poverty

8. The UK is the 3rd most unequal developed country in the world, and current Government policy is making this problem worse.

9. The UK’s unfair taxation system means that the poorest 10% of families pay 15% more tax than any other group.

10. The Government have made an unfair system unfair still by increasing VAT to 20% – which hits the poorest hardest.

11. By not increasing benefits in line with wages the Government has guaranteed growing poverty and inequality for many disabled people.

12. The new Universal Credit system will increase poverty, especially for those least able to find work.

13. Family income has been cut by a whole series of benefit cuts which have increased means-testing and made it more difficult for families who support disabled relatives.

14. Tax fraud is 15 times greater than benefit fraud (which is less than 1% of benefit expenditure) but the media and politicians talk about benefit fraud much more and encourage people to think disabled people are scroungers or fraudsters.

Barriers to independent living

15. Social care, which was already too low, has already been cut by 28% and further cuts are inevitable unless Government policy changes.

16. Families supporting people who have significant support needs have been on the frontline for social care cuts.

17. Closing the Independent Living Fund (ILF) will lead to reductions in support that will inevitably target people with the most severe disabilities and reduce their ability to live in their own home.

18. Eligibility thresholds for social care are rising, with 90% of Councils only supporting people in the top two categories of need – pushing more people into crisis.

19. Charging for social care creates a care tax, which targets and harms disabled people, increases poverty and makes it harder for people to get the help they need.

20. Changing Disability Living Allowance (DLA) into Personal Independence Payments (PIP) will cut the incomes of disabled people by £1.5 billion and will put further pressure on the social care system.

Unfair healthcare

21. The NHS is being privatised as new profit-making organisations are given contracts.

22. A two-tier NHS is being advocated where the wealthiest will get better and faster treatment.

23. People with learning disabilities are not being treated fairly by the healthcare system, often receiving sub-standard treatments or excluded from treatments that would benefit them.

24. Families are being given bad advice about having a child with Down Syndrome, this is leading to high abortion rates for mothers when they are told they will have a child with Down Syndrome.

Limited access to housing

25. Only 15% of people with learning disabilities have a home of their own home.

26. Most housing remains highly inaccessible to anyone with significant physical disabilities.

27. Artificially low interest rates are a way of giving extra resources to wealthy home owners by stealth; while those who pay rent are finding rents going up and Housing Benefit going down.

28. The Bedroom Tax doesn’t take account of all the needs of disabled people and is leading to more people going into debt or being ripped out of their own communities as they cannot afford to stay in their their home.

29. Cuts to Housing Benefit target the poorest, including many disabled people.

30. New restrictions have been applied to Mortgage Interest Relief which make it impossible for people to earn even the most modest income without losing their home.

31. Increasingly allocations policies are making it harder for disabled people to move to the community of choice that is right for them.

32. Changes to Housing Benefit rules now mean that people under 35 and are only eligible for shared accommodation, making it very difficult for people to have a real home of their own.

Exclusion for children & family

33. Education is becoming more centralised and more bureaucratic, and less able to treat each student as an individual with their own needs and gifts, this is particularly harmful for people with learning disabilities.

34. Children with disabilities are frequently being excluded from school because schools are failing to adapt or include children who are a bit different.

35. The school system is failing to offer families genuine choice and high expectations for children with disabilities.

36. Far too many families whose parents have learning disabilities are being forced to give up their children for fostering and adoption rather than being offered support to stay together as a family.

37. Support for families frequently reduces just as their son or daughter becomes an adult, making it harder to support independence and development.

Weakened community

38. 31,340 people live outside their own communities in ATUs, in out of area placements in residential care homes or in prison.

39. Promises to close ATUs have not been fulfilled, instead over 3,000 people are still far from home in places where the risk of abuse is higher.

40. Instead of developing local communities, government is selling off public services to large private organisations with no relationship to local communities.

41. Local democracy is becoming weaker as local government has taken the biggest cuts and is blamed for things it cannot control.

42. Intentional communities that value personal relationships are struggling to survive within the existing regulatory system

Cut-off from work

43. The Work Programme not only fails to help disabled people get work, it is actually harming people.

44. The Work Capability Assessment is harming the health of disabled people.

45. Only 7% of adults of working age with learning disabilities have a job – and most of these are part time jobs – whereas the average employment rate is about 73%.

46. The Government’s ‘workfare’ scheme pushes people into the wrong jobs, while reducing the job opportunities for people to take up real jobs.

47. The Government fails to invest in projects that actually help people find and sustain work, like Project Search, Access to Work or local supported employment programmes.

48. The current Apprenticeship and Traineeship Frameworks are not suitable for people with learning disabilities as they have to be able to achieve a level 1 in Maths and English, whereas many people with learning disabilities are at Entry level 1, 2 or 3.

Injustice instead of justice

49. Hate crime against disabled people is growing, encouraged by the scapegoating of disabled people by politicians, officials and the press.

50. Conviction rates for hate crime are very low, with only 1 in 125 incidences of hate crime leading to a conviction.

51. Far too many people with learning disabilities are sent to prison for minor offences and for lack of decent community support.

51 Wrongs in More Detail

1. Targeting of disabled people for cuts

There are currently three different organisations who have concluded that the Government has targeted disabled people for cuts. The Centre for Welfare Reform has published several reports on this topic, the latest of which is Counting the Cuts.[1] This showed that Government cuts targeted people in poverty and disabled people, especially people with more severe disabilities – who were targeted six times more than an average member of the population.

Demos, funded by Scope, have also demonstrated the severe cuts faced by disabled people.[2] They calculated that by 2018 disabled people will have lost a total of £28.3 billion of income by a series of different caps and cuts.

Most recently the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, commissioned by the Equality and Human Rights Commission reached the same conclusion.[3] The found “The impacts of tax and welfare reforms are more negative for families containing at least one disabled person, particularly a disabled child, and that these negative impacts are particularly strong for low income families.”

A recent report from Just Fair – Dignity and Opportunity for All – concluded that the UK Government was in breach of international law for its unfair treatment of disabled people.[4]

2. Cuts to self-advocacy

The many self-advocacy organisations that have faced cuts or who have had to close down include:

  • National Forum of People with Learning Disabilities
  • People First Lambeth
  • Barnsley People First
  • People First Cumbria
  • Bath People First
  • Swindon People First
  • Bristol People First
  • Cornwall People First
  • Dorset People First
  • Voice 4 Kent
  • And many more

A report by the NDTi found that self-advocacy has been particularly targeted for cuts by commissioners.[5]

A review of Independent Living by Jenny Morris found: “Funding for learning disability self-advocacy groups fell by 15 per cent between 2009- 10 and 2012-13 and in 2011, People First reported that local People First self-advocacy groups had dropped from 120 to 97 because of council funding cuts.”[6]

3. Cuts to independent advocacy

People with complex needs, particularly those who lack support from family, also need the support of properly trained advocates. But advocacy is not only inadequate, it has also been a target for cuts. In addition there are significant problems in receiving Independent Mental health Advocacy (IMHA) and Independent Mental Capacity Advocates (IMCA).

Jenny Morris said: “There is much anecdotal information about advice and advocacy services closing due to lack of funding: for example, the Dementia Advocacy Network folded at the end of 2013. A survey of 54 disabled people’s organisations in London found that one in five faced closure in 2012 or 2013, and three out of four had experienced cuts in funding, some of them very significant reductions.”[6]

4. Legal Aid cuts

Cuts to Legal Aid have deprived many people on low incomes of access to the courts. See this article in the New Statesman.[7]

Jenny Morris writes: “Concerns have been expressed about the impact of reductions in legal aid provision following the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012. Submissions to the Justice Select Committee show that Citizens Advice Bureaux have lost £19 million of funding annually with consequent withdrawal of specialist help for approximately 120,000 social welfare law cases in the financial year 2013-14 and a sixth of Law Centres closed in the first year of implementation of the Act. Mind submitted the results of a survey of its members to the Select Committee, which indicated that only 12% were able to get the advice they needed. A number of submissions highlighted the disproportionate impact on ‘vulnerable people’ of the reductions in legal aid and consequent cuts in advice, information and legal services. Figures released by the Ministry for Justice indicate that there has been a reduction in the number of civil cases supported by legal aid between 2009/10 and 2013/14 of two-thirds, accompanied, for example, by a reduction of welfare benefit legal aid providers from 359 in 2011/12 to 11 in 2013/14.”[6]

5. Gagging of charities

Increasingly charities are afraid that they cannot speak on behalf of groups like people with learning disabilities in case they are seen as in breach of the guidelines for charities. In addition many large charities are now highly dependent on Central Government financial support and fear that speaking out may lose them their funding or their right to participate in discussions with Government.

6. The use of sanctions

A total of 172,750 Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) claimants were referred for potential sanctioning between October 2008 and June 2013. Of those referrals, 76,300 received an adverse decision, meaning their sickness benefits were cut or stopped completely. Sanctions imposed on the ESA WRAG rose to 22,840 in the 12 months to 30 September 2013, their highest rate for that period since their introduction in October 2008. This represents a sanctions rate of almost 0.5 per cent.[8]

Among the 19,325 ESA claimants sanctioned in the 10-month period 3 December 2012 to 30 September 2013, 75 per cent have been penalised for not participating in work-related activity, and the remainder for missing or being late for an interview. Six out of ten ESA claimants hit with a sanction are vulnerable people with a mental health condition or a learning difficulty, according DWP figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. Tribunals are now upholding almost nine out of ten of appeals against DWP for sanctions (for JSA as well as ESA). Under the previous Labour Government this figure was two out of ten.

Sanctions for people on benefits are often imposed for ludicrous reasons and the way they are imposed – without any hearing or tribunal – is wrong in itself and breaches fundamental human rights.[9]

7. Misuse of the Mental Capacity Act

In March 2014 a House of Lords select committee conducting a post-legislative scrutiny of the Mental Capacity Act found that ‘deprivation of liberty safeguards’ (DOLS) were not “fit for purpose” and called for them to be replaced. As this report from Community Care makes clear, local government is unable to provide the necessary resources to assess people’s circumstances and ensure their rights are not being abused.[20]

There is significant concern that neither the voices of disabled people, or when its necessary their best representatives, are being listened to by professionals or government. A recent report by the University Essex suggests the law is not right.[21] In practice families find they cannot protect their adult sons or daughters from unnecessary institutionalisation, see for example the report Returning Home.[10] Recent work by Bringing Us Together reinforces this point.

8. Growing income inequality

Wilkinson and Pickett’s The Spirit Level demonstrates that the UK is highly unequal and the third most unequal developed country in the world, after the USA and Portugal.[11] This inequality in income damages the lives of everyone – not just the poorest. It makes people fearful, damages mental and physical health and promotes a whole range of other social problems.

9. Unfair taxation

You can read about how high taxes and low benefits make the poorest even poorer in Let’s Scrap the DWP which reviews the case for a basic income system to replace the current benefit system.[12]

10. Increased VAT and indirect taxation

The most important tax for the poorest is VAT, whereas for the richest it is income tax. VAT was increased to 20% in June 2010, directly reducing the post-tax income of the poorest.[13]

11. Indexing of benefits

This overview by Dr Ben Baumberg explains how the biggest cuts are disguised in rules about how benefits were being increased over time.[14]

12. Impact of Universal Credit

The report, Holes in the safety net: the impact of Universal Credit on disabled people and their families, chaired by Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson explains the details.[15] 100,000 disabled children are likely to lose up to £28 a week, while 116,000 disabled people who work will be at risk of losing up to £40 per week from help towards additional costs of being disabled.

13. Other benefit cuts

Almost every benefits is being cut or reformed in some way which will be negative for disabled people, and further cuts are being planned. Here are some of the main cuts:

  • Reducing benefits over time so they don’t keep pace with the economy
  • Reducing Child Benefit
  • Cuts to Tax Credits
  • Cuts to Housing Benefit
  • Changing DLA to PIP
  • Expansion of ESA
  • Council Tax Benefit – 10% reduction and localisation
  • Spare Bedroom Tax
  • Closure of Remploy services
  • Reductions in Access to Work funding
  • Transfer of Social Fund to local government
  • Household benefit cap
  • Reductions in support for carers
  • Abolition of the ESA youth rules
  • Closure of ILF

A recent report from Carers UK demonstrates vividly the negative impact of Government policy on families who provide support to each other – but who are increasingly deprived of income and support.[16] In a 2015 survey by Benefits and Work 85% of over 6,000 benefit claimants surveyed said the Coalition had made their lives worse.[22]

14. Benefit and tax fraud

Tax fraud (not evasion, plain fraud ) is about £15 billion, benefit fraud is about £1 billion (6% of tax fraud).[17] Yet the news covers benefit fraud 600% more often than tax fraud.[18]

15. Social Care cuts

Association of Directors Adult Social Services reported in their Annual Survey for 2014 that while those in need has increased by 14% real term funding has reduced by 12%. The number of people receiving support has dropped from 1.8 million in 2008-09 to 1.3 million in 2012-13, that is a reduction of 28%. These cuts are caused by a cut of 26% in the grant from Central Government to local government (by 2014-15) and deeper cuts are expected in subsequent years. Local government in England has been the primary target for Central Government cuts.[19]

Scope’s report on social care for disabled people outlines that, even before the recent cuts, social care is inadequate:[23]

  • 36% did not get enough support to eat, wash, dress or get out of the house.
  • 47% were not enabled to take part in community life
  • 34% were unable to work or take part in volunteering or training activities after losing support services
  • 38% of those seeking support experienced added stress, strained relationships and overall decline in the wellbeing of friends and family.
  • 53% felt anxious, isolated, or experienced declining mental health because they had lost care and support services

In its survey of service providers UKHCA found that there was significant concern that there was insufficient time or funding to ensure people could be supported without risk to their dignity.[24]

At the 2014 National Children’s and Adult Services Conference, David Pearson, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services said:

“The ADASS budget survey published in July showed that 26% budget savings, £3.5bn had been required over four years -12% cash reductions and 14% due to increasing need.  Directors reported a range of concerns including that some people who need services may not be able to access them and that the quality of life and care may deteriorate.

“We came to the conclusion that the situation is unsustainable. Any savings will be outstripped by the doubling of the over 85’s in the next two decades and the increasing numbers of working age adults who will need care.  This includes the number of adults with learning disabilities needing care, which will increase by 25% between now and 2026. The Barker Commission is very persuasive, too, in identifying the fact that integration is absolutely the right thing to do; but that any greater levels of cost effectiveness which may result cannot meet the growing need that will be experienced in the future.”

16. Cuts for families

Families who providing support to people with learning disabilities have been a primary target for cuts in disability benefits and in social care services. As the system makes cuts it often puts increased pressure on families who have no other options unless they are prepared to abandon those they love.

17. Closing the ILF

The closure of the ILF which is planned for 2015 is one of the most visible attacks on people’s right to an independent life. Leading disability researcher Jenny Morris recently completed a detailed review of the Government’s progress on Independent Living. Writing in her blog about the conclusions of her report she says:[6]

“…for the first time in modern social policy, we are going backwards in terms of opportunities for independent living. Fewer and fewer disabled people receive support from social services and significant numbers of those currently receiving support from the Independent Living Fund are at risk of receiving little or no support when the ILF is abolished next year.  According to Freedom of Information Requests carried out by Disability Rights UK, only 10 local authorities (out of 106 responding) intend to ring fence money transferred from the ILF next year.  Even more worrying, the amount of money to be transferred is less than that currently spent on supporting ILF recipients, confirming the evidence given by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services to the Joint Committee on Human Rights that they are unlikely to provide equivalent replacement funding for people currently relying on ILF grants.[25]"

Even the Government’s own analysis demonstrated that it was likely that people with learning disabilities would be most severely hit by the closure of the ILF.[26]

18. Eligibility of care thresholds

Dr Jenny Morris noted that “The reduction in social care funding has led to a widespread increase in eligibility thresholds: almost nine out of 10 councils now only support people with ‘substantial’ or ‘critical’ needs. It has been calculated that this has led to 69,000 working age disabled adults with moderate needs and 8,000 with substantial needs losing their eligibility for social care.[27] Amongst older people, the drop is even greater: almost a quarter of a million fewer older people received social care support in 2012/13 compared to 2009/10, a reduction of 26 per cent, while the number receiving home-delivered meals has more than halved since 2009-10.[28]″[6]

19. Charging for social care – the disability tax

Age UK reported that the cost of charges for social care had increased radically.[29] The average cost for people over 65 in 2008-09 was £1,668 per year, this had increased to £2,430 by 2012-13 – and increase of £762 (46%). Many disabled people  under 65 are also forced to pay charges for their social care, even people on very modest incomes, who have to pay over the disability benefits to the council in order to get a personal budget. Sometimes the charge eats up all of the personal budget to which someone was entitled, so the person loses out by accepting a service to which they are entitled by need.

20. Cut to Disability Living Allowance

The Centre for Welfare Reform analysed the Government’s plan to replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA) with Personal Independence Payments (PIP).[30] This changes will be phased in by 2018, by which time it will cut the incomes of disabled people by £1.5 billion. This means that an average local authority, with a population of 300,000, will lose income that has been targeted at disabled adults of over £7.5 million.  A typical local area will find that 2,250 people will lose income that was helping them to manage the extra costs of their disability.

21. Privatisation of NHS

Increasingly the NHS is being put out for tender to private organisations.[31] This is likely to have several negative consequences as services will focus more on profit and less on equality and ensuring access to groups like people with learning disabilities. This will lead to an increasingly powerful lobby of private organisations able to influence Government policy on healthcare. Dr Steve Taylor explains the enormous waste of time and energy that happens as doctors and nurses are forced to render for their own jobs.[32]

22. Two Tier NHS

As privatisation increases there will be more opportunities for healthcare providers to offer better services for those who can pay – undermining the basic principle of the NHS. Even worse, some politicians are already pushing to reduce the quality of healthcare for disabled people or other disadvantaged groups.[33]

Professor Allyson Pollock explains why the threat to the NHS will increase the risk of increasing the role of private insurance and so reducing healthcare for people who cannot afford private insurance.[34]

23. Unequal healthcare for people with learning disabilities

Mencap’s Death by Indifference campaign has highlighted many cases where people with learning disabilities received inadequate treatment.[35] A report into deaths in the South West of England found that 37% could have been avoided if the right care had been provided.[36]

24. Testing for Down Syndrome

Currently “92% of women who have an antenatal diagnosis of Down’s syndrome decide to have an abortion” and the number of Down Syndrome children who are therefore born is about 50% of what it would be if people could not choose an abortion on the basis of their disability.[37]

25. No home of my own

Public Health England’s Learning Disability Census – People with Learning Disabilities 2013 shows where the 157,495 adults with learning disabilities who are known to social services live:[38]

  • 50,930 live with family or friends
  • 24,700 live in group homes
  • 15,190 have a social landlord
  • 18,625 live in a local registered care home
  • 8,000 live in residential care homes away from their community
  • 5,030 are private tenants
  • 3,415 are in adult placements
  • 3,300 are in Assessment and Treatment Units
  • 2,640 are owner occupiers
  • 1,665 are in registered nursing home
  • 1,075 are in hospital
  • 985 are in sheltered housing
  • 770 are sofa surfers with no home of their own
  • 665 are in other forms of non-settled accommodation
  • 305 are in B&Bs
  • 65 are in emergency hostels
  • 40 Prison (and known to the local authority)
  • 35 are living in probational accommodation
  • 25 live in mobile homes
  • 10 are living in a refuge

In addition we know that there are about 20,000 people with learning disabilities living in prison.

In other words:

  • 31,340 people (20%) live outside their own community
  • 77,740 people (49%) are living in institutional or residential-type care
  • 59,305 people (38%) lack meaningful housing rights
  • only 23,845 people (15%) have what most people would call a home of their own

26. Unfair subsidies for home owners

An injustice which very few people mention is the fact that the Government’s policy of radically reducing the cost of borrowing – setting a very low interest rate through the Bank of England – is extremely unfair.[39] It effectively gives those who borrow most – the wealthiest – a huge subsidy. While those who borrow a little, on a low income, find themselves paying super-high rates.

27. Inaccessible housing

Research published by Leonard Cheshire demonstrates that there have been few improvements in the accessibility of ordinary homes:

  • 50% don’t have stairs big enough to fit a stair lift
  • 75% don’t have a disabled-friendly front door
  • 65% don’t have a bathroom big enough for a wheelchair
  • 52% don’t have hallways wide enough for a wheelchair

28. Bedroom Tax

Information about the Bedroom Tax can be found at Shelter.[41] The Housing & Support Alliance explains how this can affect disabled people.[42] An overview is also provided by Turn 2 Us.[43] Effectively this is another cut to Housing Benefit and one that targets people on low incomes and disabled people. It is estimated that of 670,000 families hit by the Bedroom Tax – 420,000 (63%) include people with disabilities (needs citation).

29. Housing Benefit cuts

Housing Benefit has also been cut for some people, by the use of an overall benefit cap and the level of rent payable was reduced from the 50th percentile of market rents down to the 30th percentile.[44]

30. Home ownership for disabled people

Benefit cuts make it even harder for disabled people to buy their own home and to work – for if they earn even a pound this is taken from their Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI) benefit.

31. Changes to allocations policies

The Housing & Support Alliance has noticed that as local authorities seek to limit access to their social housing there are increasing signs that some local areas are starting to restrict people’s basic freedoms by not enabling people from outside their own area to apply go on the list of their housing lists.

32. Shared accommodation rules

Disabled people not claiming mid- or high-rate DLA Care Component, who are under 35 and need Housing Benefit when renting privately, may only be able to afford to live with other people, even when that is unsafe or inappropriate, unless they can afford to top-up any rent due over the Local Housing Allowance cap.[45]

33. Centralised education system

The damage done to everyone by an increasingly mechanical and over-regulated and centralised education system is set out by Sir Ken Robinson in The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything.[46] He also explores this issue in a series of TED talks. The same issues, although explored from the perspective of disabled children and their families, is set out in A Fair Start by Dr Pippa Murray.[47]

34. School exclusions

The problem of school exclusions for children with disabilities is set out in a recent report from Contact a Family.[48] As the BBC recently reported the school system seems to create additional problems for children with disabilities, who are then treated as ‘acting out.’[49]

35. Opportunities for inclusive education

The low level of opportunities for inclusion in many areas is set out in a report from CSIE.[50] Katherine Runswick-Cole explains how, despite the rhetoric of inclusion, current education policy makes it harder in “Time to end the bias towards inclusive education?” British Journal of Special Education, 38(3), 112-120.[51] Children with disabilities or learning disabilities are more than twice as likely not to have a job or be in higher education than their non-disabled peers.

36. Losing your children

Tim Booth has been one of the leading academics examining the problem that too many families who have a parent with learning disabilities can end up losing their children, despite the lack of evidence that such parents present significant additional risks to their children.

37. Transition problems

There has been an on-going problem for all families with disabled children, which is that support reduces at the point their child becomes an adult, and in addition all the systems (social services, education and health) also change. This leaves families feeling abandoned and often leads to family breakdown and a failure to support the young person into full citizenship. Recent cuts in adult social services have made this problem worse.

38. Out-of area placements

As the figures above show, far too many people – are placed outside their own communities either in residential care, ATUs or in prison.

39. ATU closures

The Health and Social Care information Centre publish a Learning Disability Census in 2013 which showed that are currently 3,250 people with learning disabilities who are described as “inpatients with learning disabilities, autistic spectrum disorder or behaviour that challenges in NHS and independent services.” In the units antipsychotic medication is been used regularly (or at least once in the last 28 days) for 68.3% of the people in the units; and in the last 3 months:

  • 25.9% of inpatients had harmed themselves
  • 21.0% of inpatients had suffered an accident
  • 22.2% of people had suffered physical assault
  • Physical restraint had been used on 34.2% of people
  • 11.4% had suffered seclusion
  • 56.6% of people had been the subject of at least one incident involving self-harm, an accident, physical assault against them, hands-on restraint or seclusion

40. Local community vs. big business

The National Coalition for Independent Action and many other groups have observed that local communities are threatened by a number of factors:[53]

  • Privatisation and programmes like the Work Programme give large private companies power over local community groups
  • Tendering exercises drive out local community groups, to be replaced with organisations that specialise in tendering
  • Local shops and businesses are threatened by extension of large shopping centres and supermarkets
  • Local communities are being eroded and homogenised and opportunities for local community contribution are threatened.

41. Weakening local democracy

The rhetoric of localism and the Big Society has disguised the fact that the real trend has been to increased central control. Cuts have been targeted on local government and local government has even less influence on public services in their communities than they had in the past.[54]

42. Over-regulation

In Regulation – a paper by Bob Rhodes and Richard Davis – found that the impact of the current regulatory rules has meant that the Camphill Village community was ending many of its life sharing and home sharing arrangements and replacing them with formal care.[55]

43. Work Programme

Catherine Hale found that, instead of moving people closer to work, the Government’s Work programme left people less likely to find work and more likely to be anxious and fearful.[8] In addition, people were being sanctioned for failing to carry out tasks that their disability made impossible.

44. Work Capability Assessment

Rick Burgess et al. found that of those going through the Work Capability Assessment (WCA): 95% found the assessment damaged their health, 29% severely: 95% gave the assessment a mark of 5 out 10 or less, 43% gave it the lowest possible mark; and 80% of the time the respondent felt the assessor did not listen to them.[56]

45. Unemployment

The report People with Learning Disabilities England 2012, published by Improving Health and Lives: Learning Disability Observatory found that only 7.1% people with learning disabilities had paid employment, the vast majority of which was part time.[57] The average employment rate is above 70%.

46. Workfare

Here is an excellent summary of the flaws in ‘workfare’.[58]

47. Investing in the wrong support

Evidence suggests that the best kinds of support to help people into employment have the following features:

  • Build on desires and motivation of the person
  • Focus on identifying opportunities with local employers
  • Offer personalised and secure support

These kinds of support have been provided by organisations like Project Search, by supported employment providers and by the best local authorities and by funding such as Access to Work. These are the very models which have been ignored by the designers of the Work Programme.

48. Excluded from apprenticeships

The current Apprenticeship and Traineeship Frameworks are not suitable for people with learning disabilities as they have to be able to achieve a level 1 in Maths and English, whereas many people with learning disabilities are at Entry level 1, 2 or 3.

49. Hate crime

One of the major causes of hate crime is probably the use of negative language about disabled people or people who rely on social security benefits by the media and politicians.[59] In a major report on benefit stigma Ben Baumberg and other academics concluded that “Data suggests that people now see claimants as less deserving than they did 20 years ago, with some changes happening in the late 1990s and others in the early 2000s.[60] Over time the views of the British public on the deservingness of claimants seem to have shifted: people are more likely to say that claimants don’t deserve help and that people in need are lazy.”

Recent research showed 1 in 10 people using insulting language towards disabled people.[61]

50. Conviction rates

Official figures for disability hate crime showed a significant increase in hate crime prosecutions from 393 in 2008-09 to 574 in 2013-14, of which 494 were successful.[62] However the real figures and the real increase over time seems likely to be very much higher as most disability hate crime goes unreported. The Crime Survey for England and Wales reported in 2014 that there were 62,000 incidents of disability hate crime per year. This means that only 1 in 125 of incidences of hate crime lead to a conviction.[63]

51. Prison

The following facts and figures come from Prison Reform Trust (2014) Prison the Facts:[64]

  • An estimated 36% of 1,435 prisoners interviewed in a Ministry of Justice study were considered to have a disability when survey answers about disability and health, including mental health, were screened.
  • 18% of prisoners interviewed were considered to have a physical disability.
  • 20 - 30% of all offenders have learning disabilities or difficulties that interfere with their ability to cope with the criminal justice system.
  • 23% of young offenders have learning difficulties (IQs of below 70) and a further 36% have borderline learning difficulties (IQ 70-80).
  • Over half of prison staff believe that prisoners with learning disabilities or difficulties are more likely to be victimised and bullied than other prisoners.
  • Prisoners with learning disabilities or difficulties are more likely than other prisoners to have broken a prison rule, five times as likely to have been subject to control and restraint, and over three times as likely to report having spent time in segregation.

The Government announced its intention to invest £50 million by 2014 in liaison and diversion services at police stations and courts wherever possible to divert offenders with mental health needs and learning disabilities away from the justice system and into treatment and care. However, the deadline for full roll out of services has slipped from 2014 to 2017. A recent review of the literature on the people’s experience of criminal justice system is here.[65]

References

[1] Duffy S (2014) Counting the Cuts: what the Government doesn’t want the public to know. Sheffield, The Centre for Welfare Reform

[2] Wood C (2013) Destination Unknown: April 2013. London, Demos.

[3] Reed H & Portes J (2014) Cumulative Impact Assessment:A Research Report by Landman Economics and the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) for the Equality and Human Rights Commission. London, Equality and Human Rights Commission.

[4] Young J (with Nolan A) (2014) (Dignity and Opportunity for All: securing the rights of disabled people in the austerity era. London, Just Fair.

[5] Roberts H, Turner S, Baines S & Hatton C (2012) Advocacy by and for adults with learning disabilities in England. Improving Health and Lives: Learning Disability Observatory.

[6] Morris J (2014) Independent Living Strategy: a review of progress. London, Disability Rights UK.

[7] Shackle S (2014) How legal aid cuts are harming the voiceless and most vulnerable. New Statesman, 13 January 2014

[8] Hale C (2014) Fulfilling Potential? London, Mind.

[9] http://stupidsanctions.tumblr.com

[10] Duffy S (2013) Returning Home. Sheffield, The Centre for Welfare Reform.

[11] Wilkinson R & Pickett K (2010) The Spirit Level Why Equality is Better for Everyone. London, Penguin.

[12] Duffy S & Dalrymple J (2014) Let’s Scrap the DWP. Sheffield, The Centre for Welfare Reform.

[13] http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/+/http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/budget2010/vat.htm

[14] Baumberg B (2011) Cuts to UK Benefits. Sheffield, The Centre for Welfare Reform.

[15] The Children’s Society (2012) Holes in the safety net: the impact of Universal Credit on disabled people and their families. The Children’s Society

[16] Carers UK (2014) Carers at Breaking Point. Carers UK

[17] Duffy S (2013) A Fair Society? How the cuts target disabled people. Sheffield, The Centre for Welfare Reform.

[18] Duffy S (2013) Is Fraud Always Wrong? Huffington Post 17th November 2013

[19] ADASS (2014) Budget Survey 2014. ADASS

[20] McNicoll A (2014) Half of Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards cases breaching legal timescales. Community Care. Its October 2014

[21] Martin W, Michalowski S, Jutten T & Burch M (2014) Is the Mental Capacity Act of England and Wales Compatible with the UN Convention on for Rights of Persons with Disabilites? If Not, What Next? University of Essex.

[22] Benefits and Work (2015) “I’m scared” – what the Coalition have done to 84% of sick and disabled claimants. Benefits and Work.

[23] Brawn E, Bush M, Hawkings C & Trotter R (2013) The other care crisis: making social care funding work for disabled adults in England. London, Scope.

[24] Angel C (2012) Care is Not a Commodity. UKHCA

[25] http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/joint-select/human-rights-committee/inquiries/protecting-the-right-of-disabled-people-to-independent-living/

[26] DWP (2014) Closure of the Independent Living Fund (ILF). London: DWP.

[27] All Party Parliamentary Disability Group & All Party Parliamentary Group on Local Government (2013) Promoting Independence, Preventing Crisis. All Party Parliamentary Disability Group & All Party Parliamentary Group on Local Government.

[28] Ismail S, Thorlby R & Holder H (2014) Focus On: Social care for older people: reductions in adult social services for older people in England. London: The Health Foundation & Nuffield Trust

[29] Age UK (2014) Care in Crisis 2014. London: Age UK

[30] Duffy S (2013) Impact of PIP on Social Care. Sheffield, The Centre for Welfare Reform.

[31] Chand K (2014) Privatisation is ripping the NHS from our hands. The Guardian, 6th August 2014

[32] Taylor S (2014) Why Privatisation Is Killing the NHS. Huffington Post, 23rd September 2014

[33] Thomas O (2014) UK should discuss prioritising NHS treatment for workers – Dame Carol Black. WSB, 6th March 2014.

[34] Watch Privatisation of the NHS: Allyson Pollock at TEDxExeter

[35] Mencap (2012) Death by indifference: 74 deaths and counting A progress report 5 years on. London: Mencap

[36] Mencap (2013) Briefing on the findings of the Confidential Inquiry into premature deaths of people with a learning disability. London: Mencap.

[37] Bristow J (2008) Comment: Down’s Syndrome, live births, and statistics, 26 November 2008. London: Abortion Review.

[38] Public Health England (2013) Learning Disability Census Report 2013. London: HSCIC

[39] Duffy S (2013) The Hidden Housing Subsidy. Sheffield, The Centre for Welfare Reform.

[40] Leonard Cheshire Disability (2014) The Hidden Housing Crisis. London: Leonard Cheshire Disability.

[41] http://england.shelter.org.uk/get_advice/housing_benefit_and_local_housing_allowance/changes_to_housing_benefit/housing_benefit_changes_2013

[42] http://www.housingandsupport.org.uk/thebedroomtax

[43] https://www.turn2us.org.uk

[44] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Housing_Benefit

[45] http://england.shelter.org.uk/get_advice/housing_benefit_and_local_housing_allowance/what_is_housing_benefit/housing_benefit_for_young_people

[46] Robinson K (2010) The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything. London: Penguin.

[47] Murray P (2010) A Fair Start. Sheffield, The Centre for Welfare Reform.

[48] Contact a Family (2013) Falling through the net: Illegal exclusions, the experiences of families with disabled children in England and Wales. London: Contact a Family

[49] Burns J (2014) Disabled children's behaviour 'deteriorates at school'. BBC News, 6th October 2014

[50] Black A, Norwich B & Sakellariadis A (2014) Contrasting responses to diversity: school placement trends 2007-2013 for all local authorities in England. Bristol: Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education.

[51] Runswick-Cole K (2011) “Time to end the bias towards inclusive education?” British Journal of Special Education, 38(3), 112-120

[52] Booth T (2000) Parents with learning difficulties, child protection and the courts in Representing Children, Vol. 13 No. 3 pp. 175-188

[53] http://independentaction.net

[54] Duffy S (2012) Real Localism. Sheffield, The Centre for Welfare Reform.

[55] Rhodes B and David R (2014) Regulation: the unintentional destruction of intentional communities. Sheffield, The Centre for Welfare Reform.

[56] Burgess R et al. (2014) Assessing the Assessors. Sheffield, The Centre for Welfare Reform

[57] Emerson E et al. (2013) People with Learning Disabilities England 2012. Learning Disabilities Observatory.

[58] https://realfare.wordpress.com/2014/10/07/7-facts-you-need-to-know-about-workfare/

[59] Inclusion Europe (2014) Disability hate crime 'overlooked' in the United Kingdom, e-Include, 22nd September 2014

[60] Baumberg B, Bell K & Gaffney D (with Deacon R, Hood C, & Sage D) (2012) Benefits Stigma in Britain. London, Turn 2 Us.

[61] Preece S (2014) One In Ten Admit To Using Abusive Language Toward A Disabled Person. Welfare Weekly, 17th November 2014

[62] Crown Prosecution Service (2014) Hate crime and crimes against older people report; 2013-14. London: Crown Prosecution Service

[63] Home Office (2013) An Overview of Hate Crime in England and Wales. London: Home Office.

[64] Prison Reform Trust (2014) Prison the Facts. London: Prison Reform Trust.

[65] Anderson S (2015) People with learning disabilities in the criminal justice system lacked support, information and faced social isolation. The Learning Disabilities Elf, 9th February 2015

See also Stephen Evans for SMF and DRC Disability, Skills and Work; Raising our ambitions (2007). 

The Centre for Welfare Reform will maintain and improve this overview of policies for people with learning disabilities with your support. Please send any proposed amendments to Simon Duffy.


The publisher is the Centre for Welfare Reform.

Totally Wrong List © Simon Duffy 2015.

All Rights Reserved. No part of this paper may be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher except for the quotation of brief passages in reviews.