The government has announced £30 million of funding for additional short breaks for families with disabled children as part of its Levelling Up strategy.

The funding will provide 10,000 additional respite placements, giving family care givers of children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) a break so they can look after vulnerable children better in the long run.

With a further £18 million of funding, the government also plans to double the capacity of the Supported Internship programme to provide thousand more young people who have additional needs with the skills to secure and sustain paid employment.

The programme will additionally drive up the standards and quality of internship delivery across the country for students who have an education, health and care plan.

These programmes come on top of £45 million of funding for a combined 3-year package, to help all councils deliver quality public services and provide direct support to schools and families.

Nearly three quarters of disabled children have seen their progress regress in the pandemic

The Disabled Children’s Partnership (DCP) have been campaigning for dedicated funding in children’s social care for years, alongside a wide network of big and small organisations, thousands of parents, young people and allies, parliamentarians and newspapers.

Amanda Batten, Chair of the DCP and CEO of Contact said the announcement “finally shows that the government has acknowledged that the system of support is not good enough, and we are glad that our campaign has been heard.”

The DCP thank the thousands of people involved in the campaign, particularly the Sun newspaper for their help leading the #GiveItBack campaign. However, they warn that there remains much work to be done.

“This additional funding will result in more support for children and families, but it will not meet all the challenges they face. Our latest economic analysis found that there was a large funding shortfall in disabled children’s social care, which today’s announcement will help but will not address in full.

“The research from our #LeftInLockdown campaign shows that nearly three quarters of disabled children have seen their progress regress in the pandemic, as vital services and other support were reduced. Our freedom of information requests have shown there remains a large backlog in Education, Health and Care Plan assessments, and a backlog in therapy appointments,” said Ms Batten.

The DCP say they will continue to fight for the rights of families, and will call on council leaders and the government to ensure that the needs of disabled children and their families are not forgotten.

“Closing the gap between children with SEND and their peers requires more than compassion. It requires action”

The Children’s Minister, Will Quince, said he hopes the funding will help to provide better opportunities for young people with additional needs and give family carers a much-needed break.

He added: “Whether it’s through funding more internships or respite placements, or improving school SEND provision overall, young people deserve the opportunity to shape their future. That’s why we will be seeking their input in our SEND Review which aims to best ensure children and young people, as well as parents and carers, get the support that they need, when they need it, regardless of where they live, and will publish the findings in the first three months of this year.”

“Closing the gap between children with SEND and their peers requires more than compassion. It requires action. That is why we must go even further, which is where the Levelling Up White Paper will come in. It will be a blueprint for improving public services, including giving everyone – including those with SEND – access to quality schools and training. It will be a masterplan for reversing our country’s geographical inequalities, as well as those that exist between students with SEND and their peers.

“And ultimately, it will help deliver on the promise that all children show: that when given the support they need to level the playing field, they can achieve amazing things.”