Joan McAlpine MSP Sets Down Parliamentary Motion In Support Of Adults With Learning Disabilities

South Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine has submitted a motion to the Scottish Parliament in support of people with learning disabilities, after approaches from constituents in Dumfries and Galloway as well as the rest of Scotland. The motion expresses concern for vulnerable adults who have been struggling without the day care support they need, including their local Activity and Resource Centres (ARCs).


Ms McAlpine, who is deputy convener of the Scottish Parliament’s cross party group on learning disability,  believes the move is necessary to highlight reports that many users have seen their care packages reduced due to the pandemic – even though the Scottish Government reassured local councils and Health and Social Care Partnerships that they would get full funding to continue the support packages. Despite this reassurance, she says lack of provision has seriously impacted physical and mental wellbeing and despite many letters to local Health and Social Care Partnerships on behalf of constituents, she says progress is not fast enough.


The local MSP’s intervention follows news that the Activity and Resource Centre in Dumfries, which has been closed since March, is set to re-open this week. However, users claim they’re being offered significantly reduced hours. Ms McAlpine is now urging for the services to be fully restored to previous levels. After making a speech in parliament about the impact of the pandemic on people with learning disabilities, Ms McAlpine received emails from across Scotland from desperate families complaining that their adult children were suffering from the withdrawal or serious reduction in support.


The majority of services at Activity and Resource Centres have been closed across Dumfries and Galloway since the start of the pandemic with staff being deployed to other areas – although not always to support learning disabled people in other ways.


In her motion Ms McAlpine pointed out guidance from the Scottish Government which gave assurances that that any extra costs relating to providing alternatives to care packages Health and Social Care Partnerships would be reimbursed. However, families say this hasn’t been their experience. They say new assessment processes mean they could miss out on services that they previously relied on.


Commenting, Ms McAlpine says,


“I had an online meeting with a number of family members recently after they got in touch to tell me about their concerns. They’re very worried about loss of access to the level of services they previously had access to. They told me their family members are having to undergo re-assessment and fear it will mean services won’t be fully reinstated. Some families have even told me the process has caused them to be “at breaking point.”
“While I welcome the limited re-opening of the Activity and Resource Centres at last, it really is too little too late.  I understand from families that independent, third sector providers have often been more flexible and creative in redesigning their support services for learning disabled people than the Health & Social Care partnerships have been. However, the HSCP have suggested to families who use such support to compensate for reduced capacity at adult day centres could now lose hours at the ARC day centre permanently.
This is of great concern. Families have desperately needed the extra support that these third sector providers have been able to offer while the ARC’s have been closed during the pandemic. So for these families to be now told that they could permanently lose the support of ARCs as a result is deeply worrying.
“Vulnerable adults with learning disabilities urgently need access to their day care support fully restored, not just for basic needs such as feeding, washing and dressing, but also to enjoy meaningful activities and social opportunities. Depriving them of this support is a human rights matter.”


Ms McAlpine has also used parliamentary questions to raise concerns about the death rates among people with Learning Disabilities, which are six times higher than the general population – and thirty times higher for comparable younger age groups. She hopes to get cross party support for her motion so that it can be debated in the parliamentary chamber.

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