Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

Disability groups call for improvements to the Children and Families Bill

More than 100 charities and parent groups have written an open letter calling on the government to ensure the Children and Families Bill will make life better for families of children and young people with disabilities and/or special educational needs (SEN).

The letter, addressed to the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, says that parents of disabled children and young people are concerned that their offspring are getting a worse start in life than their non-disabled peers and that their development – socially and educationally – is suffering as a result of their needs not being met.

It adds that, while the Green Paper ‘Support and Aspiration: a new approach to special educational needs and disability’ promised a better future for this group of children and young people, two years on many feel it will not deliver on its promise to make life less stressful for parents.

“The Bill at present risks undermining the right to an inclusive education and to the provision of services they are currently entitled to,” it said.

Charities that have signed the letter include Mencap, the Down’s Syndrome Association, Every Disabled Child Matters (EDCM) and Ambitious About Autism.

Starting today [October 16], the House of Lords will discuss these reforms, which will have a wide-reaching impact on the way children and young people with SEN are supported in the future. The debate takes place in light of the recent report by the Children’s Commissioner for England, which found that some disabled children were living lives that didn’t meet international human rights standards.

The letter urges the government to listen to disabled children, young people and their families, and those who support and work with them, to address these issues within the Children and Families Bill. In particular, the Bill should:

• Protect the existing rights of disabled children and young people
• Create a truly joined-up system for disabled children and young people with fully-integrated health and social care services
• Make local authorities accountable for the services they offer to disabled children and young people
• Ensure all disabled children and young people benefit from these improvements.

Srabani Sen, EDCM board member, said: “The Government Green Paper ‘Support and Aspiration’ promised disabled children and young people and their families a better future. It outlined a vision of properly joined-up services and one that all disabled children and young people will benefit from.

“As it stands, the Bill fails to deliver on this promise. We therefore urge the Government to listen to the charities and parent groups signed up to this open letter and make the changes to the Children and Families Bill necessary to achieve the vision families desperately want to become a reality.”

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