The Children’s Society today called for the Children and Young Person’s Bill to be amended to give the 13,000 disabled children living away from home in England the right to independent advocacy. It launched a report in parliament indicating that less than 3% of disabled children in need had access to advocacy services, based on a survey of 67 providers.
Chief executive Bob Reitemeier said the bill, designed to take forward the government’s Care Matters agenda for looked-after children, provided an opportunity to give disabled children more control over their care and added that it would be a “vital safeguard” for the group.
The survey of advocacy services working with disabled children found that around a quarter did not work with children living away from home and that nearly half were unable to offer services to children with the most complex needs, many of whom would be in residential care. One service said it had turned away 213 referrals of high-needs disabled children because it was unable to support those with serious disabilities.
Other obstacles to providing services included age and geographical boundary restrictions, although professionals’ reluctance to refer disabled children was also highlighted as a problem by some advocacy services.
Children and Young Persons Bill