PEOPLE with learning disabilities in Herefordshire are getting one of the worst deals in England, according to the findings of a recent report.

Herefordshire Council and its partners are poorly serving people with learning disabilities and offer little scope for improvement, the Commission of Social Care reports.

Their inspectors found "significant weaknesses" in services during their January visit and have handed the authority a list of 27 shortcomings.

The report concluded that: l The council had not produced sufficient information about its services to people with learning disabilities and their carers.

l There is poor information on out-of-office support, while some sufferers struggled to make contact with their carers during daytime hours.

l People with learning disabilities found it hard to get the health care services they needed.

l Carers said they were not getting the information, advice or support they needed and were unsure what action to take in an emergency.

l There was no plan to ensure staff were getting the right training.

l The council and the PCT did not ensure the right people were working in the right departments. Poor management, inability to recruit and not enough man hours have played a big part in the shortcomings, leaving existing staff with a bigger workload and more paperwork, the report states.

Moving sufferers to care homes has also proved a big drain on funds - few people with learning disabilities live in their own home, despite being a much cheaper option.

An action plan has been set up to deal with the issues, and the inspector has noted some improvements already taking place.

However, it seems likely that the council will have to spend more to bring the services up to scratch.

"It's true that we are running a relatively expensive service for the number of people we are serving," said council leader Roger Phillips at a cabinet meeting last week.

"We are having to run the service on very little money but it's at a relatively high cost per person compared to other services."

Geoff Hughes, the council's director of adult and community services, said improvements were being made, but admitted there could be one-off costs.

"The work on the action plan is on target and significant additional resources have been put in place," said Coun Hughes. "In the short term, it's going to be costly but once we've got over the hump, it should be a lot better."