This article was going to be titled ‘It’s All Happening’ – then I realised there is a lot of surface activity but not necessarily a lot of lasting and significant change. It has been a bit of a whirlwind of announcements and consultations though – and we’re wanting to keep our members up to speed with them all!

Potentially the most significant has been the publication of ‘Time is Running Out’, the 6 month independent review of the Transforming Care and Commissioning Steering Group, which is chaired by Sir Stephen Bubb. You will recall how critical we were at the start of the process as there was an initial ‘breakfast meeting’ to which people with learning disabilities, advocacy organisations and parents and carers had not been invited. That being said, and following an outcry, the actual Steering Group looked very different. The six month review shows that progress is still far too slow. One of the pressing reasons for this is the need to ‘gear up the capacity and response of providers’ – the report also talks about the need to look at commissioning. We have been continually putting this issue forward and will continue to do so – we hope the experience of our members will be heard by the Provider Delivery Taskforce that has been instigated.

I don’t think many will be surprised by the new study from Public Health England (PHE) that has found that one in six adults with learning disabilities are being prescribed anti-psychotic drugs by their GP that are normally used to treat major mental illnesses. But it is certainly a disgraceful statistic. Over half of these adults do not have a recorded diagnosis of a condition these drugs are designed to treat. We know that providers are often having a real struggle for there to be a proper review and assessment of medication that the people they support are receiving. The report sits within a programme of work led by NHS England which aims to tackle the over-prescribing of antipsychotic and other psychiatric drugs to people with learning disabilities, we really hope that action will be taken to ensure that where people are prescribe anti-psychotic drugs there is a review and reduction programme urgently instigated.

Whilst the Care Cap, due to be implemented in 2016, would have had most impact on older people, the announcement that it is to be delayed will inevitably affect support for people with learning disabilities. The first issue is with local authority budgets, already tightly squeezed. Implementing the cap was going to be expensive but there is no guarantee that the money saved will be spent on social care. The care cap also meant that people who had eligible care needs by the age 18 would have these needs met for life. The delay of the implementation of the cap means that the status quo will continue. Despite the concerns we have added our voice to The Care and Support Alliance in welcoming the delay of the introduction of a care cap. With the care system already chronically underfunded the introduction of the cap was potentially disastrous. We are hoping that in the Comprehensive Spending Review, the Chancellor will use the opportunity to find a sustainable way forward for social care budgets.

And finally, still remaining with the Chancellor, George Osborne, the Budget included several announcements that will have implications for ARC members, especially the impact of the new National Living Wage. We posted on our website two briefings prepared by Anthony Collins Solicitors LLP, in case you missed them they are here:
• The Budget – what it means for social care providers
• What does the new “National Living Wage” mean for employers?

I’ve also recently attended an NICE briefing event to start the process of developing a quality standard for older people with learning disabilities. So as I said – it seems like there is a lot happening – but we are going to have make sure we keep involved to make sure that so many announcements get followed through with the necessary actions to mean that real change is happening for the people we support.