Budget cuts of up to 15% to services for disabled children could leave some councils open to legal challenges over the duty to provide short breaks, according to campaign group Every Disabled Child Matters.
Councils have until October to show how they are fulfilling the duty, which comes into force today. However, EDCM has anecdotal evidence that some councils are planning to cut service funding by up to 15% over the next year, prompting concerns that some will be unable to cover local need or fund the new duty.
“This duty will ensure that local authorities and families have a greater understanding of what short breaks services should be provided,” said Christine Lenehan, board member of Every Disabled Child Matters.
“However, we are concerned that some local areas are risking a legal challenge by reducing budgets for disabled children’s services. We urge local authorities to ensure that they are properly resourced to meet their legal duty with respect to disabled children.”
Lenehan added that the government ought to be mindful of the pressure on local authorities’ budgets and should consider the issue of resources in the consultation on the special education needs and disability Green Paper.
Charity Family Action, meanwhile, has warned that disabled children could lose up to £1,366 a year under the proposed universal credit compared with the support they receive now through the disability element of child tax credit.
Under the welfare reforms, now going through parliament, families with disabled children would lose up to £16 a week.
Family Action chief executive Helen Dent said: “We’re due a child poverty strategy but, with this callous cut, the government is making sure that some of the most vulnerable children will be poorer from the start.
“The government’s slash-and-burn approach to support for disabled children will hit some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged families who rely on this extra support.”
The changes will not affect how much disability living allowance families receive.
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