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How austerity has eroded learning disability services

Eleven years of austerity has affected the quality and responsiveness of care services for people with learning disabilities, a study shows

Eleven years of austerity has affected the quality and responsiveness of care services for people with learning disabilities, a study shows


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Support for people with learning disabilities became increasingly poorly aligned to their care and support needs amid austerity measures that followed the 2008 global financial crisis, a study shows.

Researchers from the Tizard Centre at the University of Kent conducted a thematic synthesis of 11 articles published in peer-reviewed journals based on qualitative, quantitative or mixed method approaches.

The effect of austerity on people with learning disabilities was characterised by losses, not just of financial security but also more widely of autonomy, choice and opportunities for social and community participation.

Plight of family carers

Many participants also reported that austerity had negatively affected the quality and responsiveness of care services they received.

Family carers reported taking on increased caring roles. Their own well-being and wider social relationships were often adversely affected, and in some instances people’s occupational roles were strained.

Many family carers felt additional support from services was increasingly only available reactively, in response to family units reaching breaking point.

For learning disability nurses in practice, it is important to consider the effect of increased exposure to social determinants of health inequalities when endeavouring to make sense of the clinical and support needs of people referred to services.


Dave Atkinson is an independent consultant nurse

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