Schools, children’s centres and youth services should have higher expectations of children with disabilities, the Disability Rights Commission has urged.
As part of its ongoing Disability Debate campaign, the DRC has stepped up its fight to get young disabled people to participate more in post-compulsory education and training. New proposals include guaranteeing places on school councils and laying on adequate transport for after-school clubs.
The proposals are outlined in a report, which points out that disabled 16-year-olds are twice as likely not to be in any form of education, employment or training as their non-disabled peers. The report puts this down to a “vicious circle” of low aspirations and decreasing life chances.
A DRC spokesperson said the aim was to not only increase opportunities for disabled children but also raise everyone’s expectations of what they can achieve.
“All too often services for disabled young people are seen as a bolt-on to existing services, but they should be embedded right from the start,” she said.
“Disability rights should be at the centre of policies and initiatives. Sure Start, for example, is a huge agenda and we want to influence it from the top down as well as collect and disseminate examples of good practice on the ground.”
The report follows criticism by the DRC earlier this month of the suggestion by the National Union of Teachers that including disabled children in mainstream education “harms children”.
DRC chair Bert Massie said: “Disabled people have fought hard to establish support for their full inclusion in society. There can be no turning back from this. We are seeing real improvement and achievement in the learning outcomes of many disabled children.”
The Disability Debate culminates next January with a major conference and the launch of a publicity campaign.