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

New children’s social care strategy ‘does not fully recognise needs of disabled children’

Disability organisations have criticised the government’s new Children’s Social Care Implementation Strategy for failing to distinguish between social care for child protection and social care for disabled children.

The Strategy aims to overhaul children’s social care and better support vulnerable children to safely stay with their families at home.

To do this, the Department of Education has committed £200 million over the next two years. This funding will be used to offer local early help for families and intervention with challenges such as addiction, domestic abuse or mental health.

Strategy relies to heavily on social workers who there are a severe lack of

The new plan responds to recommendations made by three independent reviews by Josh MacAlister. While MacAlister says the Department’s response is a step in the right direction, he has criticised the government for providing only one-fifth of the funding that was recommended.

MacAlister recommended the government invests £2.6bn over five years to reform the system, and said the £200m allocated would only “start tipping the scales towards the kind of system children and families urgently need”.

Disability organisations are also concerned that the plan relies too heavily on social workers at a time when the workforce is hugely overstretched.

In a blog post, Tania Tirraoro, founder and co-director of Special Needs Jungle, a not-for profit organisation, wrote: “This response is ambitious and recognises many of the issues to be tackled. How its intentions will be put into practice is another story. It will take money – lots and lots of it—and a lot of people to come forward to train as social workers. Where they are going to find either are, as yet, unanswered questions.”

Ms Tirraoro also questions how this new legislation will hold local authorities accountable. She points out that we already have laws in the Children and Families Act and its SEND Code of Practice that are designed to ensure that children and young people with SEND are supported at every stage of their journey across education, health and care.

Mr Tirraoro says local authorities “consistently manage to ignore” these laws, and questions how the government plans to ensure this new legislation is different.

Proposed support “does not go far enough” to meet disabled children’s needs

Similarly, the disability charity Sense says the Strategy “doesn’t recognise fully the needs of disabled children who differ from other children when accessing social care.”

He added: “Disabled children should be given equal priority, and while we welcome the new direction set by the government, and the commitment to the Law Commission review, the measures proposed will not fully meet the needs of disabled children. We are disappointed with the scale and pace of support proposed for disabled children and their families as it does not go far enough to meet their needs.

“Until there is full support in place, we’ll be a long way from a social care system that delivers what children and families urgently need.”

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