The Every Disabled Child Matters campaign claimed today that families with disabled children were missing out on a legal right to short breaks.
The campaign published a legal opinion claiming there was a “strong argument” that such a right already exists in law. However, EDCM, which campaigns to improve support for disabled children and their families, has also renewed its bid to have the right enshrined unequivocally on the statute books by publishing a bill to enact it.
In the legal opinion, community care lawyers Paul Bowen and Luke Clements said a right to short breaks at home and in residential care may exist under the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970 and the Children Act 1989.
They challenged the current interpretation of section 17 of the Children Act 1989 – under which councils must provide services for children in need – as only creating a “target” rather than a “duty” to provide short break care for disabled children.
The campaign hopes to launch test cases early next year. However, it has also produced a Disabled Children (Family Support) Bill, which would place a duty on councils to provide short break care if it has been assessed as necessary under the Carers and Disability Act 2000.
A similar bill was introduced into parliament by Gary Streeter MP last year but failed to progress due to lack of government and opposition support. EDCM urged MPs to take forward the new bill.
EDCM is a coalition of four organisations: Contact a Family, Council for Disabled Children, Mencap and the Special Educational Consortium.
Community Care is campaigning for improved support for disabled children and their families as part of our mission statement, voted on by readers.