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Charities warn that families with disabled children are at breaking point

Scope website (link opens in a new window)Charities, parenting groups and disability campaigners are warning that families with disabled children are at breaking point due to a chronic shortage of support and services in their local areas.

Leading charities including Scope, The National Autistic Society, Sense, 4Children and The Family and Parenting Institute have come together as the Government prepares for the biggest shake up of support for disabled children or those with special educational needs (SEN) for 30 years. The organisations claim that changes in the Children and Families Bill could fail to improve the lives of families that have disabled children.  

Children and Families Bill

The draft Children and Families Bill published in September 2012 proposes to replace statements (link opens in a new window) with a new joint education, health and care (EHC) and to force councils to list what services are available for disabled children in the local area. But the charities and family and parenting groups argue that this doesn’t go far enough.

Scope says the changes will make little difference to thousands of families whose children are not eligible for an EHC Plan and will be reliant on the ‘Local Offer’. Scope believes that the local offer will be meaningless for thousands of families if the services aren’t available in the first place and if there is no compulsion placed on councils to change or commission new services that will ensure families with disabled children receive the help they need.

Scope research

Scope has published a new report, Keep Us Close, that brings together the experiences of 600 parents of disabled children. It reveals that almost two thirds (62%) of families with disabled children are not getting critical support such as childcare or nursery places, appropriate schools, essential therapies or even healthcare in their local area.

Some 60% of families Scope spoke to describe the process of getting their child the right services they need as a “battle”. Of the families who couldn’t access services locally, 80% said it caused them stress and anxiety. Over half (51%) said it had a negative impact on their ability to work and meant they missed out on family activities like birthdays and playing together.

Provide Local Principle

Scope is calling on the Government to include a 'Provide Local Principle' in the Children and Families Bill, to compel local authorities and agencies to genuinely consider how they can change existing services or plan and commission new services that better support disabled children in their local communities. It hopes the introduction of the principle in the Bill which goes before parliament early next year will:

  • Ensure services in a local area are inclusive and accessible.
  • Put a duty on local agencies to introduce new inclusive and accessible services if they don't exist in a local area.

Doing Services Differently

At the same time Scope is urging councils to work more closely with charities and disabled people when it comes to designing local services.

The charity will be launching a report called Doing Services Differently at a summit for local authority chief executives on 16 October that argues that one way to generate greater innovation in services for families with disabled children and disabled adults is by charities, councils and disabled people’s organisations forging stronger partnerships.

Find out more about the Scope research about families that have children with disabilities (link opens in a new window)

Find out more about the Children and Families Bill (link opens in a new window)

Source: The Guardian (link opens in a new window)

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