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Norwood director on learning disabilities in the Jewish community

    There are over five-and-a-half thousand people with a learning disability in the Jewish community. During National Learning Disability Week Angela Duce, director of operations at Norwood, explains why voluntary sector organisations are turning to their donors during this time of austerity.

    Norwood supports thousands of people across London and the south-east with a range of learning disabilities, as well as children with special educational needs and families. With local authorities left with just a few years to cut their budgets by a third, care providers are feeling the funding pressures acutely.

    Some of the people we work with can live independently with varying levels of support; others have very severe physical and learning disabilities. Norwood supports people to make their own choices, participate fully in the world around them and achieve their ambitions, big or small.

    Despite supporting more people, many with complex needs, the funding we receive from government has dropped by three million pounds over six years, and this is recurrent. Added to this, some of methods used to calculate care costs are not open to scrutiny and can grossly underestimate the real cost of care.

    Changes to the way people are assessed for benefits have impacted on the lives of many of the people Norwood supports and their families. Work Capability Assessments are rarely carried out by a health professional with experience in learning disability. We’ve seen people with almost identical needs given vastly different levels of support, simply because of who is assessing them on the day.

    Understandably, because they don't want to be seen as "incapable", many people with a learning disability over-exaggerate how much they can do without help. This has in the past resulted in those with very high needs who claim they don't need any support being left without provision. Having to attend assessments, reassessments and tribunals can be stressful and frightening, particularly for families who need to know their loved one is supported and safe.

    Increasingly, voluntary organisations such as ours are relying more and more on donations from trusts, individuals and the money raised through fundraising events. We depend on donations for a third of our service running costs. That's over £10 million a year. Only the generosity of the community allows us to provide the services needed by the people we support.

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