A male and female forestry worker taking a break at work in the grounds of Scolton ManorWelsh Government recently published its final budget for the next financial year. Our Policy and Communications Officer, Aled Blake, looks at the potential impact on people with a learning disability and the services they use.

Public finances in Wales are under enormous strain. There are plenty of reasons behind this, not least the funding settlement Wales gets from the UK Government, but things like inflation and a weak economy are also having an impact. These financial pressures have meant the Welsh Government has had to make some difficult decisions on how it spends its money in the year ahead, and that will have consequences for people with a learning disability and the services they use.

In December 2023, the Welsh Government published a draft budget for 2024-25 that proposed cuts to spending across a range of sectors. Since then, a final budget has been approved, with some more money being found to support services in some areas.

What does this mean for people with a learning disability?

This positive action is welcome. For example, councils are to be given nearly £15m more in their settlement, while a £10.5m allocation for the Social Care Workforce Fund will reverse a reduction made in the draft budget.

This is welcome additional money but it is not totally good news. Local authorities continue to operate in an extremely difficult financial environment. The extra money does not keep up with inflation, and this comes after a decade where councils in Wales say they have lost a total of £1bn in funding.

If we want quality public services and support for everyone in society, then much more money is needed.

The Welsh Government is doing what it can to protect services for the most vulnerable. The £5m Children and Communities Grant was due to be cut but that has now been restored because it supports the needs of disadvantaged children and adults.

Some extra money has also been found for apprenticeships. This recognised a need to provide accessible opportunities for people with a disability in employment. Expansion of the shared apprenticeship programme to people with a learning disability was a part of this funding support.

What does Learning Disability Wales think about the new budget?

The uplift in money for things like councils and the health service are welcome, while the improved provision for apprenticeship opportunities for people with a learning disability is something Learning Disability Wales is also positive about.

But there are some very tough realities that continue to concern us. Despite the small amount of extra cash for some services, these are challenging times for the public sector. Money in the public sector is still stretched and we know when this happens, people at the margins feel the effects the most.

While the reality is that public spending is under lots of pressure, it is also true that the needs of the most vulnerable in society do not change either. Learning Disability Wales will continue to champion the rights and needs of people with a learning disability and will work with the Welsh Government to create a Wales where those needs do not go unmet.

(Photo credit: All Wales People First Through Our Eyes image library)