The government tabled an amendment to the Children and Young People Bill in the House of Lords yesterday to give all disabled children and their parents a legal right to short breaks.
This amendment will place a duty on local authorities to provide short-break services to and aim to give disabled children the opportunity to experience new activities with their peers.
Legal changes to set standards for short-break services were first mentioned by Lord Adonis, children, schools and families minister, at the launch of a Aiming High for Disabled Children pathfinder in Sutton, south London on 22 February.
The amendment was tabled by Lord Rix ((left), the president of Mencap,
and Lord Adonis and will be debated in the report stage of the Bill next week (17 March).
Lord Rix said: “Where families with disabled children have full time caring responsibilities, short breaks are essential. Short break services should therefore be on a statutory footing to reflect their vital importance. I am confident my fellow peers will agree on this matter and that we shall see legislative change for disabled children.”
Currently, local authorities can provide families with short breaks but it is not a specific requirement. Under the Aiming High for Disabled Children programme the government has ring-fenced £370m for local authorities to transform short-break services in England in 2008-11.
Lord Adonis said: “This legislation will enable us to ‘lock-in’ the improvements – ensuring that short-break services are maintained at a high standard of provision beyond 2011. It will also ensure that short break provision is provided on a preventive basis and not just for crisis intervention.”
And Christine Lenehan, director of the Council for Disabled Children and board member of the Every Disabled Child Matters campaign, said: “For the first time, government is putting the support our families desperately need on a firm legal basis. EDCM and our supporters, in Parliament and outside, have campaigned hard to get this issue up the agenda and ministers must get the credit for listening and responding.”