Chat Learning Disabilities & Autism Opinion

What keeps me awake at night…Aisling Duffy, CEO, Certitude

Aisling Duffy, CEO, Certitude

Like many people I love a wedding! This summer I am delighted to be a guest at no less than four weddings, some which had been delayed due to COVID-19, so they feel even more special.

Yvette and Martin are two people getting married whose wedding I was thrilled to attend. They have known each other for many years and started sharing a house four years ago, where love blossomed to the point that they decided to tie the knot. With help from his support team, Martin chose a ring for Yvette and while on holiday, with careful curating of the dessert, Martin presented the ring and made his proposal in the most romantic way possible. Before the night was out, Yvette had the perfect dress in mind and wedding planning commenced in earnest!

A beautiful, romantic and, let’s face it, relatively common experience for many. But not so for many people in society. Martin and Yvette both also happen to have learning disabilities, use wheelchairs to get about and need the help of support teams around the clock to live their best lives. In the UK, 3% of people with learning disabilities live as part of a couple, compared to 70% of the general population[1]. This should shock and appal us all and I am worried that with the state of social care, this is getting worse, not better.

In July 2022 the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), responsible for commissioning social care in local authorities in England, warned that the year ahead will be the most challenging ever faced. They highlight increasing levels of unmet need, mounting workforce pressures, and insufficient funding from central government. Cathie Williams, ADASS’s Chief Executive said “…more people will miss out on vital care, others will wait longer for support, and choice and quality will decline still further.”

On the same day, Skills for Care published its latest data on the social care workforce, reporting the highest number of vacancies since 2012. Without proper investment, ensuring that local authorities have the resources to make the Care Act – a great piece of legislation – a reality for everyone requiring support, more and more people’s lives will be put on hold, missing out on the right to a good life.

Yvette and Martin know first-hand the importance of quality support, the people they can rely on to provide the support they need to lead their lives. At Certitude we know how brilliant a career in social care is and our highly engaged colleagues work with great passion and commitment, evidenced by better retention rates than sector benchmarks. It takes planning, money and an unwavering ambition for people to live great lives. All of which is sadly in very short supply in current policy making and in government.

Movements like Social Care Future provide some reason for optimism: ‘A coalition of the willing born out of frustration and fuelled by hope.’ People who draw on support and their allies are determined to use their expertise to stand up and fight for what’s right, making government and policy makers look up and listen.

The solutions aren’t so complicated. They require a shared vision, a more creative use of resources, a properly funded workforce plan and placing real value on the lives of people like Martin and Yvette.

The right to a good life – to love and be loved – really, is that too much to expect if you have a learning disability? Yvette and Martin certainly don’t think so and I couldn’t agree more.

[1] Supported Loving



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