Big society bill raises budget concerns for disabled children

Disabled children's charities are concerned the government's public services reform white paper might increase pressure to push personal budgets onto families.

Disabled children’s charities are concerned the government’s public services reform white paper might increase pressure to push personal budgets onto families.

Proposals in the currently delayed white paper have been flagged up in national newspapers over the weekend and in a column from prime minister David Cameron in The Telegraph today.

Mr Cameron said: “Though I was always so grateful for the tremendous care my eldest son received, I never understood why local authorities had more control over the budget for his care than Samantha and I did. This [the white paper] is a transformation: instead of having to justify why it makes sense to introduce competition in some public services – as we are now doing with schools and in the NHS – the state will have to justify why it should ever operate a monopoly.”

“We would support the policy of having personal budgets, but would emphasise that the system must not in any way undermine the local authorities’ legal obligations to disabled children,” said David Congdon, head of campaigns and policy at Mencap.

“The danger is that some councils interpret personal budgets as a way to save money and if you take that approach as a local authority, you’re not going to fulfil your obligations – parents who are given an inadequate amount of money to support their child’s needs are only going to be able to buy inadequate services.”

Congdon said the white paper and the SEN and Disabilities Green Paper, published by children’s minister Sarah Teather in March this year, signalled the government’s intention to make personal budgets the way forward for children with disabilities.

He emphasised, however, that “a lot of detail needs to be worked out before we know how to implement this properly”, saying Mencap wanted to see proper pilots carried out and assessed before the approach was applied to children’s services.

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