Almost two thirds (62%) of families with disabled children are not getting crucial support and services in their local area, according to a report by the disability charity Scope published on Monday. The figures were released as charities, parenting groups and disability campaigners warned that families with disabled children are at breaking point because of a chronic shortage of local childcare, nursery places, appropriate schools, essential therapies and even healthcare in their local area.
Scope, Sense, 4Children and The Family and Parenting Institute came together as the government prepares “the biggest shakeup of support for disabled children or those with special educational needs for 30 years”: the children and families bill.
The Scope report says 60% of the 600 families spoken to said getting their child the right services was a “battle”. Of the families who couldn’t access services locally, 80% said it caused them stress and anxiety, while 51% said it affected their ability to work and meant they missed out on family activities such as birthdays and playing together.
The draft bill, published in September does not go far enough, charities say. A Department for Education spokesman said: “We’re changing the system so they get this help as quickly as possible, and we’ve already started to test new arrangements in 31 local authorities well before they come into force in 2014.”
Richard Hawkes, chief executive of Scope, said: “The government has a once-in-a generation opportunity to end the daily struggle parents of disabled children face.
“More than 500,000 families have a disabled child. Life is tough for all families at the moment but the pressures and struggles placed on families with disabled children are pushing them to breaking point.
Mark Goldring, chief executive of Mencap, said: “We welcome Scope’s report. We know from our work with people with learning disabilities, and their families, up and down the country that many are struggling to get the right support and specialist services, and that they have real fears about their finances in the future.
“Mencap hopes that the Children and Families Bill will transform the way local authorities work to deliver the services that families, children and young people need and are entitled to.”
Katherine Rake, chief Executive of the Family and Parenting Institute, said: “Families continue to act as the shock absorbers to rises in prices, frozen wages, and cuts in spending and on children’s services.
“There is only so much families can take and future cuts will make it even tougher to ensure fair access to services.
“The Children and Families Bill presents a huge opportunity for the government to realise its ambition of a family friendly UK but the government needs to be bolder in its commitment to families if the Bill is to make a difference to struggling families.”
Gillian Morbey, chief executive of Sense and Sense International, said: “Parents of deafblind children tell us every day that they have to fight to get the right support for their child. Deafblind children are unique and their support needs have to be met to enable them to live as fulfilling lives as possible.
A spokeswoman for children’s charity 4Children added: “4Children welcomed much in the Children and Families Bill, including its positive approach to adoption.
“However, we are concerned by the limited scope of this Bill – at a time when families are facing dwindling incomes against rising prices, growing unemployment and cuts to vital services, this Bill does little to address the real problems families are facing.”