David Cameron has suggested more families with disabled children would be given individual budgets under a Conservative government, as part of reforms to disabled children’s services.
In an article for the Independent, the leader of the opposition said parents currently faced “a world of bureaucratic pain” and described the current system of service provision as “inhuman”.
Drawing on his own experience as a carer for a disabled child – Cameron’s son, Ivan, died in February aged six after suffering from a rare neurological condition from birth – he said individual budgets would empower families to take control of their own lives.
He said parents should be able to pool money from health, social care and education into a single pot and have it paid directly into their bank accounts to use as they choose, adding: “This is the support, trust and respect that parents of those with disabilities deserve.”
Pilot scheme in England
Individual budgets differ from personal budgets, which are being rolled out across England for adults, because they combine social care funding with other funding streams.
The Department for Children, Schools and Families is overseeing a pilot scheme for families of disabled children in partnership with six local authorities in England: Coventry, Gloucestershire, Derbyshire, Essex, Gateshead, and Newcastle.
Each site focuses on a particular client group, such as children aged five to 16, or newcomers to the social care system. The pilots began in April this year and will run until March 2011, with a possible extension to 2012.
Cameron also suggested the Conservatives would introduce a single assessment process for disabled children and their families, and were examining a model used in Austria, where a multi-agency team carries out an assessment providing a gateway to all services.
He said: “Having your child assessed and getting the help you’re entitled to means answering the same questions over and over again, being buried under snow drifts of forms, spending hours on hold in the phone queue.”
Aiming High for Disabled Children
As part of the government’s £770m Aiming High for Disabled Children programme to transform services from 2008-11, it has set out a “core offer” for families.
This specifies that assessments should be separate but co-ordinated and based on shared information, that all agencies understand each others’ assessment processes and that there are clear records of assessments that have been carried out.
Individual budget pilots – information from the Department for Children, Schools and Families website