11th Dec, 2016

Learning disabled job hunt service faces axe

Stratford Editorial 29th Aug, 2016 Updated: 28th Oct, 2016

A SERVICE helping learning-disabled people find jobs in Warwickshire is facing the axe.

Warwickshire County Council says the Warwickshire Employment Support Team (WEST) needs to close to save £280,000 per year – part of the council’s plans to save £92million during 2014-2018.

WEST is a county-wide service for people with a learning disability, Autism or Asperger’s who want to find paid work. At any given time it helps around 150 people.

The council has proposed using other services – such as Learning Disability Wellbeing Hubs, Job Centre Plus and voluntary organisations like Scope, Remploy and Mencap – to fill the gap if the service is axed.

But charity Mencap has said people with learning disabilities relied on services like WEST to gain the independence and pride that comes from having their own job.

Mencap spokesman Jason Hardman told The Observer: “Councils are coming under greater pressure than ever via cuts from central government, and employment services for people with a learning disability can be viewed as a luxury service that can’t be afforded.

“The reality is that the impact of long term unemployment on mental and physical health is likely to end up placing a greater financial strain on local authorities, the NHS and the benefits system.

“While overall employment rates have risen, the number of people with a learning disability in employment has decreased.

“The Government has made a commitment of halving the disability employment gap, but cutting services such as this will directly undermine this important manifesto commitment.”

County council adult social care spokesman Coun Jose Compton said difficult decisions had to be taken for the authority to make necessary savings.

She added: “We are confident that, by maximising our use of other provisions in the community and in partner organisations we can best meet people’s assessed needs.”

The council has launched a consultation on the impact of closing WEST, and is seeking views on other support that may be available.

The council is also consulting with trades unions and staff who may be affected. A spokesman said redundancies were anticipated, but staff would be redeployed wherever possible.

Visit www.warwickshire.gov.uk/west for more information on the service, or www.askwarks.wordpress.com to take part in the consultation, which closes on September 30.