Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Trust CEO dispels fears over learning disability underspend

Following a meeting with the Chief Executive of the Southern Health and Social Care Trust, Shane Devlin, in relation to the reported underspend in its Learning Disability budget, SDLP MLA Justin McNulty says he has received assurances that the money will be reinvested in services for those living with a learning disability.

 Describing the meeting as very productive, Mr McNulty said: “I have received reassurances that the reported underspend has in fact been invested in Learning Disability Services and that the allocated budget has actually increased each year since 2014.

“In 2014 the actual budget was just over £40million and in the last financial year that had risen to almost £47million.  Even with this increase in budgets there are always pressures and an ever growing demand for more resources.  At the end of last year there was an underspend of £1.1million but this has already been reinvested in the services this financial year.”

The Trust has expressed a wish to have even greater investment in Care in the Community and in Independent Living Schemes and are liaising with the Health and Social Care Board with the aim of increasing Supported Living Schemes across the Southern Trust area, he said.

“I am acutely aware of the growing demand for services and know the difficulties facing many families with loved ones with a learning disability.  As a public representative the most heart-breaking stories I hear from parents or carers of a loved one with a disability is the difference in services for those who reach the age of nineteen.  There is a range of services for those eighteen and under but the options for those post-nineteen are more limited.  This is something we all want to see improved.

“I want to thank Shane and his team, especially those who work on the front line.  The services they provide to those with the full range of disabilities in the community is invaluable. I hope that we will see the budget continue to rise in the years ahead and that support continues to increase and improve for those with a disability in our community and for their families,” he added.