Children and spokespeople from children’s charities Barnardo’s and Whizz-Kidz are to go to Downing Street this morning (Wednesday) to highlight how the needs of disabled children often go unmet.
The charities are highlighting that NHS funding for UK wheelchair services has not been reviewed for 15 years and a lack of money and a postcode lottery is having a disastrous impact on disabled children.
“Disabled children need to have the right start in order to achieve their full potential,” said Julie Searle, mum of Jessica, 12. “It is vital that mobility equipment is allocated at the earliest age to maximise learning potential and that is tailored around the child, not the other way round, as was our experience with the NHS wheelchair service.”
In a recent survey, 60 per cent of disabled children said they were forced to use unsuitable wheelchairs. The right wheelchair can dramatically improve a child’s life but a shortage of NHS funding means they are often withheld due to cost.
Martin Narey, chief executive of Barnardo’s , said: “There are approximately 70,000 disabled children in the UK who need mobility equipment, and many families are forced into debt or have to rely on support from charity to get suitable wheelchairs making life even tougher for their families.”
“Children who lack independent mobility from an early age are known to develop ‘learned helplessness’, a condition that leads to them becoming disinterested and withdrawn – this can last into adulthood and in turn result in further reliance on services,” he added.
The charities will present the report to Downing Street at 10:30 am this morning. They are calling on the government to:-
• End the postcode lottery of wheelchair provision for children.
• Ensure the forthcoming spending review looks specifically at wheelchairs for children
• Work together with partners to commission services more strategically and pool resources.
Professor Sir David Hall, professor of community paediatrics at the Institute of General Practice at the University of Sheffield, said: “For a disabled child, having the right wheelchair is crucial if they are to move around independently and develop vital cognitive skills as part of their overall natural growth and development.”