Siân, our Membership and Services Officer and Editor of Real People, told me a few weeks ago that this fortnight’s edition would be the 100th. What an opportunity to have a look back, and trawl through a few of the first editions. I thought it would be good to reflect on the changes since 2014 and to see what was hitting the headlines in the sector.

Well, when I had a read it was a bit like Groundhog Day in some respects – some usual suspects in terms of critical challenges like funding – moreover the lack of it, reports of poor health of people with learning disabilities compared to the general population and the distain that less than 7% of people with a learning disability are in paid employment. From where I am standing, well sitting actually, nothing has changed on the face of it. Funding in real terms is reducing; the introduction of the National Living Wage has put extra pressures on providers and the sleep in crisis – let’s not go there. There is still huge disparity in respect of health inequalities and premature mortality and that needs to change. And then there’s the engagement of people with a learning disability in voting – a key of citizenship and yet again still no major change over the years – not for lack of trying may I add.

Also it seems the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS) were causing “confusion and controversy”, not unlike the new bill in respect of the DoLS replacement system, the Liberty Protection Safeguards. We will all agree over the past 4 years the DoLS system has just not been effective – it is ready for a make-over – the problem is the bill is out and it is not sitting particularly comfortably with many, including us.

Reading on, I can see there were calls from the King’s Fund for health and care budgets to merge and the Care Act consultation had been launched. The Department of Health was seeking views on how local authorities should deliver the care and support reforms in the 2014 Care Act. Progress in both of these? Erm, in short, yes – a little.

You get the picture.

At first when I digested all of this I was a bit despondent actually. Are we ever going to get Social Care sorted?! The same issues keep raising their heads, over and over again. But then I got to thinking – despite the on-going challenging landscape, the sector survives, in fact more than survives – it cares for and supports thousands of people and does it well. Despite lack of resources and funding, this person centric ‘business’ still delivers the goodies. Agreed, occasionally not all of the time, there is definitely room for improvement but so many organisations, which let’s face it, translates in to people power, have morphed in to different shapes and sizes over the last 4 years, and do amazing things regardless, day in and day out.

It is encouraging that the profile of Social Care is probably the highest it has been, ever. There certainly is a greater appreciation of how important it is, and the alignment with Health, although still miles away, is getting ever so slightly closer. It seems the ‘penny has dropped’ on that front. Good news indeed.

I sit here and wonder what the next 4 years will bring. I think we are on the cusp of fundamental change, only the cusp mind you – we are not there yet. And whether that comes due to some positive influence or something catastrophic, I believe the sector will still be here, obviously still be needed and continue to grow in significance – the way it looks may of course be very different.

NHS England said a couple of weeks ago that ‘autism and learning disability’ will be a clinical priority in their upcoming ten-year plan to improve health services in England. I wonder what that will look like in 4 years time, when we reach or 200th edition of Real People. It’ll be an interesting ‘ride’ between now and then that’s for sure.

Kind regards

Lisa Lenton
ARC England Director
22 August 2018