Parents of children with learning and/or physical disabilities increasingly have to fight for basic support including school placements, therapies and equipment, according to a charity.

Analysis from disability charity Scope – bringing together insight from its staff on the ground, parents’ experiences and polling – found hundreds of examples of disabled children having to wait months for time-sensitive therapy including speech and language, occupational therapy or having to fight for critical equipment such as wheelchairs and orthopaedic boots or for appropriate placements in schools.

The charity is also increasingly hearing stories from parents who see no end to the battle they are forced to fight with councils, schools and health services in order to get basic support for their child.

As a result, Scope has written to the Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, warning him that Government’s reforms risk squandering a once in a generation opportunity to improve the lives of disabled children.

Scope made this warning as the Children and Families Bill, which outlines the biggest shake-up of support for disabled children and those with Special Education Needs in more than 30 years, was debated for the first time in Parliament.

A combination of 28% cuts to local authority budgets, NHS efficiency savings and welfare reforms are creating the most challenging environment for families with disabled children in generations, Scope believes.

The charity spoke to 600 parents last year. It found:
• Almost two thirds (62%) of families with disabled children are not getting critical support such as childcare or nursery places, appropriate schools, essential therapies or even healthcare in their local area
• 60% of families describe the process of getting their child the services they need as a “battle”
• 80% said not getting the support they needed caused them stress and anxiety
• 51% said it had a negative impact on their ability to work and 36% said it placed financial pressure on their family.

Richard Hawkes, chief executive of Scope, said: “The Government has a once in a generation opportunity to end the battle families are forced to fight in order to get basic support for their disabled children. Yet it is at a very real risk of squandering this opportunity. We need a bold decision by the Government to invest in better support for disabled children. Anything less will effectively fail a generation of disabled children, condemning to a future of unfulfilled potential.”

Carol Tozer, executive director of services at Scope, added: “Our staff and volunteers hear desperate stories every day of families literally at breaking point because they are having to fight tooth and nail for basic support. Often the therapy they are fighting for is crucial to a child’s development and there can be severe implications later in life if these children don’t get the support they need in time. We know schools, councils and health agencies are under immense pressure and that professionals on the ground have their hands tied and are just as frustrated as the parents.”