Local authorities (LAs) are being tasked to show that disabled children are a priority despite restrictions imposed by recent funding cuts. The Every Disabled Child Matters (EDCM) campaign has called on local authorities to show they are committed to services for disabled children by signing up to a new Disabled Children’s Charter.
In addition to cutting LA budgets, central Government has imposed a series of changes to the ways in which councils fund and manage services. In April, the Aiming High for Disabled Children programme came to an end and funding under the Early Intervention Grant (EIG) commenced. The Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, has committed £800m to funding short breaks, saying that this should be one of the main focuses for council EIG funding. As of 1 April, LAs also have a legal duty to provide breaks from caring for families of disabled children. Further major changes are also imminent with the introduction of the Health & Social Care Bill and proposals in the SEN Green Paper.
However, the EDCM campaign states that many of its supporters have reported that services they see as a “lifeline” have been threatened with cuts, often without consultation or indication how their needs will be met elsewhere. Blackburn Council is currently facing judicial review proceedings following the planned closure of a KIDS short breaks service and many other councils may be leaving themselves open to similar legal challenges.
The Disabled Children’s Charter aims to focus the work of local authorities in relation to their new duties. It sets what the campaign describes as “challenging but achievable goals” aimed at helping LAs to meet their statutory requirements and ensure best practice. It follows on from EDCM’s recent Local Authority Charter, which nearly 100 councils signed up to.
“This new Disabled Children’s Charter provides local authorities with an opportunity to demonstrate that they are committed to meeting the needs of local disabled children”, says EDCM Board Member, Srabani Sen. “It will help Councils to allay the fears of families with disabled children that they are no longer seen as a priority.”