Family carers still at breaking point says Mencap report

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Short breaks offer a way for people with disabilities and their family carers to take a break from each other. For the person supported, they offer an opportunity to be away from home and for family carers an opportunity to recharge depleted batteries.

In 2003, Mencap surveyed seventy six families from across England and Northern Ireland to ask them about their experiences of supporting their relative with a learning disability and short breaks services.

That original survey suggested that 8 out of 10 families surveyed reported they had reached the point of crisis in their caring relationship as a result of not getting enough short breaks.

The latest report, released last week shows that the situation has not changed at atll, and that exactly then same number of families – 8 out of 10, report they have reached, or are close to reaching, breaking point

The report’s authors point out that there has been an investment by government in short breaks services of £1.2 billion, but the lack of ring-fencing has meant that not all the money has not been spent on the services it was supposed to support.

The survey found that

  • More than 8 in 10 families of adults with a learning disability did not receive any short breaks in the last year.
  • More than half of councils have cut spending on short breaks.
  • 9 in 10 family carers report high levels of stress.
  • Over half of family carers have given up, or are considering giving up, work.
  • 8 out of 10 family carers report that the lack of short breaks has a negative impact on family life.

The report’s author, Jo Davies, campaigns and policy officer at Mencap says

A break of just a few nights a month can be the difference between being able to cope with the responsibility of caring for someone with a learning disability and reaching a crisis,”

You can read the full report here:
Breaking Point A report on caring without a break for children and adults with severe or profound learning disabilities, Davies J, Mencap, 2013.

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John Northfield

After qualifying as a social worker, John worked in community learning disability teams before getting involved in a number of long-stay hospital closure programmes, working to develop individual plans for people moving into their own homes. He worked for BILD, helping to develop the Quality Network and was editorial lead for the NHS electronic library learning disabilities specialist collection. This led him to found the Learning Disabilities Elf site with Andre Tomlin as a way of making the evidence accessible to practitioners in health and social care. Most recently he has worked as part of Mencap's national quality team and also been involved in a number of national website developments, including the General Medical Council's learning disabilities site.

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