Legal right to care breaks introduced

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A duty on local authorities (LAs) to provide breaks from caring for families with disabled children came into force on 1 April 2011.

To date, £198 million has been allocated across LAs in England for short breaks in 2011/12. However, some councils have said that they will be making cuts to the services that they provide for disabled children, in response to the 25 per cent reduction in their overall budgets being imposed by central Government. As one authority stated in response to a letter from the Every Disabled Child Matters (EDCM) campaign, “since the Council is facing reduced funding, it is no longer possible to continue to fund support at the level currently funded’.

EDCM Campaigners are concerned that LA budget cuts to services for disabled children will mean that some areas will not have allocated sufficient resources to ensure they can meet their legal obligations to provide breaks from caring.

The campaign wrote to all local authorities requesting information on their 2011/12 budget for disabled children’s services. However, out of 152 LAs in England, approximately 70 per cent were not able to provide information.

Welcoming the introduction of the duty on councils, Christine Lenehan of EDCM  warned that some authorities are risking legal challenge by reducing budgets for disabled children’s services. “We urge LAs to ensure that they are properly resourced to meet their legal duty with respect to disabled children”, she said.

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