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LEARNING DISABILITIES FACE SERVICE SHAKE-UP

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Authorities may get direct funds...
Authorities may get direct funds

By Jo Stephenson

The Department of Health is examining the case for transferring provision of all services for people with learning disabilities to local government, LGC has learned.

Under the move, which would need a change in the law, councils would commission services for the learning disabled.

Funding for the services would also be transferred from the DH to local government.

It is understood the proposal is being considered at the highest level in the health department.

It follows a series of high-profile cases of neglect and abuse of people with learning disabilities, including at Cornwall Partnership NHS Trust, which prompted a national audit of learning disability services in January.

Council chief executives and heads of adult social care supported the move, but warned it must not amount to further 'cost-shunting' from the NHS.

The transfer would replace the current system of 'dowries' from the health service to councils that take on former long-stay patients.

Anne Williams, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, hoped the move would end inconsistent funding across the country.

'We're concerned that the money in health be safeguarded and feel it would be better

if it was channelled through local authorities which are already the lead commissioners for learning disability services,' she said.

The transfer of services was also backed by the Local Government Association.

Trish O'Flynn, its acting programme director for adult services, said transition programmes would have to be developed with service users and there should be a major role for the third sector.

The DH would not comment on the specific proposals.

A spokeswoman said the government was committed to strengthening the commissioning of learning disabilities services, including looking at giving local government a stronger role, following the report of abuse in Cornwall.

She added: 'It is important that appropriate consideration is given to any decisions on roles and responsibilities and the department will advise of the process for this in due course.'

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