Overlooked: The institutional neglect of the mildly disabled.

Since the financial collapse of 2008 and the following recession, the lives of many have been changed. I’ve seen this most significantly in my work with people with learning disabilities, social care funding the UK (and many other places) was significantly cut, and many individuals who have “mild” learning disabilities were neglected.

Neglect is a strong word, you might use it flippantly, I neglected to put the rubbish out, I neglected to shave this morning… but fundamentally neglect is a type of abuse. People with mild disabilities may on the surface, and certainly under certain assessment tools appear to be able to look after themselves, they can shower and change their clothes, maybe make a meal, maybe read and write but they may struggle with relationships, may be easily influenced by others, and may not be fully aware of how to remain safe.

This report I read recently and several others I found going back many years (a cursory Google search will show up many), but particularly since the recession shows this.


In it the issue of children with mild disabilities not receiving funding for their educational support due to those with moderate to severe disabilities and complex needs getting the funding is essentially saying that the government, local councils, educational services are in fact guilty of neglect.

These reports have been appearing for decades in fact, stating indirectly that us as a society is not meeting the needs of our more vulnerable citizens. These individuals who appear to not need as much help are still incredibly vulnerable and without support can have their lives break down.

What I’ve often seen is funding given to help a person in crisis, and when the crisis is fixed the funding is removed. No matter how much I have argued that the support is important to maintain equilibrium for the person and by removing it they at risk of another breakdown, maybe a worse one it doesn’t happen, sure enough that person goes into another crisis.

I’ve continually talked about early intervention, I’m not alone, many professionals much more qualified than me say it too, let’s get into the schools early and ensure those potentially vulnerable individuals have a scaffolding around them, to make sure they don’t hit a crisis, and if they do there is a net to catch them.

But social care funding and apparently education and health funding isn’t given on the possibility of a crisis.

The old adage that the person who shouts the loudest gets the most attention is often true. The people with aggressive behaviour, severe physical and learning disabilities deservedly get significant funding, but just because they may be extreme cases doesn’t mean the quiet ones don’t need help too.

The question of money is important, there isn’t an endless supply of funds to help everyone who needs some help, but there are ways to create initiatives in schools, community centres, hospitals to have staff who could recognise those who may need the extra help, to ensure the teachers, parents, GP’s have some tools to offer little pieces of guidance or support.

I’ve seen many people with mild disabilities lose their support and quickly deteriorate, they may be able to wash themselves but maybe needed a prompt, may be able to speak but need guidance on what to say, if we neglect these people during their formative years, during their education then we’ll be dealing with many individuals in the future who have failed. People’s lives fall apart, let’s not let it be because of money. If we spend a bit now it will save fortunes in the future, specialist care is much more expensive than providing some good support now.

Some hospital placements can cost £500,000 per year per person (that is high, but not uncommon, many placements are in the hundreds of thousands), for a well-trained support worker it may cost £30,000 a year and they may be able to reach numbers of people, the maths is simple but we shouldn’t be reducing people into how much it costs for them to function.

The same issues exist for youth crime, where a few people with good ideas just need a bit of money so they can create initiatives to help get cut or don’t get it even though it may save lives. It’s hard to quantify a void, how do you tell someone that your work will prevent a crime, a hospitalisation or a death? If something hasn’t happened why should tax payers pay for it?

There’s lots of crisis reaction and not much crisis prevention.

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