Children with disabilities in Trafford and Plymouth could soon enjoy a better choice of short breaks and accessible activities following the launch of a pilot project to get parents to join forces.
Disability charity Scope is running a Department for Education-funded pilot where parents of disabled children are supported to pool personal budgets from the council to jointly buy short breaks and fund other leisure and recreational activities such as clubs, sports and visits to the park, horse riding and the cinema.
The hope is that the two-year, £702,000 pilot will see parents work out where the gaps in provision are and then plug them, and in doing so stimulate the local markets so that provision better meets their needs.
Scope is now encouraging local families who receive or are eligible for a personal budget to get involved in the pilot scheme.
The charity will then support parents to come together and guide them through the pooling of their budgets.
Scope is currently working with parents to develop an online forum, which is due to go live in September.
Jim Wagg, from Trafford, who has a son with autism and is involved in the pilot, said: “The first thing that any parent of a disabled child will tell you is that it isn’t easy. You’re constantly searching for activities they will enjoy and which give you a break. But too many services are one size fits all. Often they’re nearly right, but not right enough. That can be frustrating.
"Personal budgets, in theory, should ally my parental knowledge to professional expertise. As an individual parent with a personal budget, I have limited clout, but the idea of taking elements of several personal budgets, where there is a common interest in a service, or potential service, and seeing if the collective purchasing power can be a force for change or innovation, has to be worth exploring. Using individual budgets to create collective financial muscle could be a way to maximise the impact of personal budgets. I like the idea in principle, but we are in uncharted waters here."
Clive Parry, who is overseeing the pilot for Scope, added: “It can be really tough being a parent of a disabled child. We regularly hear about the struggles parents go through to get the right support or find accessible activities or short breaks.
“Parents know best what type of services they need. This project is tapping into that experience like never before. By giving families the means to influence and stimulate local markets, they can be made more responsive to parent’s needs. Above all we hope that by buying services together parents will get more targeted support for their children, and that in turn will improve their health and wellbeing and the resilience of the whole family.”