People with intellectual disabilities struggle with budget cuts, recession

    A new national report from the advocacy organization “The Arc” finds that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities have been hit hard by the recession and budget cuts, affecting both services and employment opportunities.

    Philadelphia resident Jean Searle has a mild intellectual disability. She lived in an institution for ten years, left when she was 22, and is now living independently. She said in the beginning, she needed a lot of help with basic tasks, such as interacting with people, budgeting her money, cleaning, or cooking. She is employed and manages most of her daily life by herself now, but still receives some services from social workers.

    But those are the kinds of services that are being eliminated as states struggle with their budgets, according to the new report, which surveyed more than 5,000 people with intellectual disabilities and their families. Over 60 percent of families said services had been cut. The majority of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities live with family members who care for them.

    Fifty-eight percent of parents and caregivers surveyed reported spending more than 40 hours per week providing support for their loved one, with 40 percent spending more than 80 hours week.

    One out of five families report that someone in the family had to quit their job to stay home and support the needs of their family member. Many aging parents reported that they are not sure where their loved one will go when they are no longer there to care for them.

    Another big issue the report found is a lack of employment opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities, said Peter Berns, CEO of “The Arc.”

    “People with intellectual and developmental disabilities want to have real jobs in the community, and one of the things the survey found is that 85 percent of them are unemployed, so we are clearly not accomplishing the vision of people with disabilities working,” said Berns.

    “The Arc” is launching an awareness campaign to bring attention to the issues affecting people with intellectual disabilities.

    Berns says the report’s findings are worse than they expected, especially in the areas of employment, services, and support for families.

    The report was released Tuesday, 50 years after President John F. Kennedy called on the nation to bring people with intellectual disabilities out of the shadows, and help them lead productive and engaged lives.

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