In recent months the government has begun a process of announcements of cutbacks in public expenditure. Local authorities who will be receiving lower budget settlements are now under great pressure to deliver services with less resource. We are now experiencing authority after authority announcing redundancies, management reorganisations and an unwillingness to recruit to vacant posts.
As new structures settle down commissioners will be setting their minds on how to make further efficiencies (or should I say cutbacks).
Already there is evidence emerging of officers wanting to reassess the services received by some people with learning disabilities against new criteria. Some are taking the line that the best way to reduce cost is to re-tender in the hope that costs will be driven down. The next few months will be a difficult time for everyone involved in the sector.
But what about the people who receive the services – what do they think about the services that are potentially going to be affected? What consultation will be held with them? Will they have genuine involvement in the decisions that will inevitably impact upon their lives?
They are the most important people and successive governments have been telling us so! The test has now come – has all that has been achieved and said about people with learning disabilities about them having control over their lives been merely rhetoric?
As professionals we appreciate the difficulties that our colleagues face in dealing with limited resources but at the same time we have a duty to enable people’ views to be heard.
So my question is what do we do if we feel people’s views are being overlooked? How far should we be prepared to go?
Can we take action that is genuinely in the best interests of the people we support without being perceived as protecting the organisation we work for?
Is there a voice for people with learning disabilities? Does anyone really care?