Why it’s so important to write ‘disabled children’ into the Children and Families Bill
Today’s blog post is written by Laura Courtney, Campaign Manager at the Every Disabled Child Matters campaign (EDCM). EDCM is run by Contact a Family, the Council for Disabled Children, Mencap and the Special Education Consortium. It is hosted by the Council for Disabled Children.
EDCM is back from party conference. Spurred on by one thousand EDCM supporters emails to MPs, we braved monsoons, dodged throngs of protesters dressed as bees, and grabbed the attention of every Minister, MP, Peer, Councillor and party member we could get our hands on. Our aim was simple: to explain to each of the three main political parties why it is so important to write ‘disabled children’ into the Children and Families Bill.
The main question that the politicians we met were keen to discuss was: ‘How do we make the system simpler, so parents and young people don’t have to fight to get what they need?’
Well – what does makes the system simpler? Parents, young people and professionals tell us this: They need a clear framework which helps everyone to understand their role and to have a stake in success.
So, we want to make sure that all health, social care and education commissioners and practitioners understand that the Children and Families Bill relates to them and can help them to build a joint approach.
Even more importantly, we want to make sure that parents and young people can clearly see how services should work together to meet their needs.
For that reason, it MUST be clear that this Bill relates to children because they are disabled, as well as because they have a special educational need.
Children have special educational needs in relation to accessing education, but they have rights as disabled children that are much, much broader. These include the right to an assessment for social care services, rights to reasonable adjustments and access to universal services under the Equality Act, the right to sufficient local childcare and to short breaks, the list goes on and on.
Commissioners and practitioners understand local SEN in relationship to education commissioning, but when they are commissioning for health and social care, they do so for disabled children.
This Children and Families Bill presents an historic opportunity to bring these two sets of rights and processes together. There is no need for an extra price tag, it is about making the law clearer for those who use it.
We are very afraid of the unintended consequences that will occur if the Bill appears only to relate to accessing education. These could make the divisions between health, social and education even stronger, and cause further confusion on the ground. Parents and young people tell us that, when services are confused, the battles get harder and they lose vital support.
At the Party Conferences, MPs, Peers, Councillors and members of all parties quickly understood where EDCM was coming from, and promised to speak out in Parliament and in their local areas on our behalf. We very much hope this means they will help us to work with Edward Timpson MP and the Department for Education to make this simple but crucial improvement to the Bill.
We welcome your thoughts on Laura’s blog Please leave a comment below and Laura or someone in the EDCM team will get back to you. All comments are moderated and must obey our house rules. Thanks!