Headlines: October 1st, 2004

Britain’s 49,000 children with severe disabilities are receiving inadequate care from social services departments it is claimed in a report published today. It shows that almost half of parents with disabled children get no support at all from outside the family.The report “People Not Budgets: valuing disabled children”, has been produced for the Centre for Policy Studies by Florence Heath and Richard Smith who say the crisis in care will get worse as disabled children live longer as a result of medical advances.

Their findings show that 48 per cent of families get no support at all and a further 30 per cent get less than two hours help each week. Eight out of ten families said that health and social services were not properly co-ordinated and the report finds that respite and residential care is scarce.

Looking at the financial aspects of care the authors say total spending on disabled children by social services is in the region of 540 million pounds a year. That works out at 11,000 per child compared to the average of 36,000 a year spent on every juvenile prisoner. Of the total spent just over half goes on assessment and commissioning tasks.

The report says the parents of children with disabilities tend to know what they need and would often prefer to choose care services themselves rather than receiving inadequate help from local authorities. It adds that recent government initiatives have aggravated the situation. The Care Standards Act 2000, for example, has added to the burden of regulation and costs for care providers.

Heath and Smith recommend that families should be given more control and that money currently spent on social service commissioning should be given directly to them as a non-means-tested payment on top of any current benefits and would go to any family providing care at home. At current expenditure levels, the authors calculate that this would be worth 115 pounds a week.

They also call for the establishment of care assessment teams to be a one-stop-shop for disabled families to help assess needs and ensure disabled children receive appropriate care. Finally they say respite and residential care homes should be liberated by modernising the regulatory approach.