News Archive

Transforming The Lives Of Disabled Children

Posted on Friday, May 23, 2008

15 May 2008
-New Package Launched, Including Anti-Bullying Guidance-

The Government announced today a major package to improve the lives of disabled children and their families.

The key elements include:
• guidance to help schools tackle the bullying of disabled children and those with special education needs;
• national expectations of how disabled children and families in every area can expect services to be provided - the `core offer`
• a new body to support delivery of short breaks for disabled children and their families;
• and the first wave of pilots for the £35 million Disabled Children’s Access to Childcare project.

Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, Ed Balls, together with Care Services Minister Ivan Lewis and Schools Minister Andrew Adonis, outlined proposals to build on the £340million strategy Aiming High: for Disabled Children: Better Support for Families and the £90million additional capital funding for short breaks for families with disabled children announced in The Children’s Plan. The Government’s anti-bullying strategy was also strengthened to include specific and tailored advice for schools relating to children with disabilities and special educational needs (SEN).

The announcement was made at the Aiming High for Disabled Children conference. Children’s minister Beverley Hughes also announced new childcare pilots at a Community Care Live event.

As part of the drive to stop persistent bullying in schools, the Department for Children, Schools and Families published new guidance, to join the suite of materials Safe to Learn which look at tackling all forms of bullying.

The new advice looks at the issue of the bullying of children with SEN and disabilities and follows advice on racist and homophobic bullying and cyberbullying.

It is designed to help school staff understand and address the particular issues that surround sustained bullying of this type, and recommends strategies to stamp out persistent bullying of all kinds.

For example it identifies that children with SEN and disabilities may be more isolated, might have difficulty understanding the social interaction around bullying and might be especially afraid of ‘grassing’ on bullies.

It looks at tackling the problem through both prevention and response. Measures might include building understanding among not only pupils, but also staff and parents, of what is and is not acceptable behaviour.

It suggests strategies such as appointing a member of staff to look out for the child, and for them to develop a series of secret signals so the child can indicate how they are feeling and whether they have recently be subjected to bullying. This means the child does not have to draw attention to themselves or their problems in front of peers.

Ed Balls said:
"Bullying children with special educational needs and disabilities has to be the cruellest expression of cowardice. Singling out a child because they are different is unacceptable and wrong. We all need to look beyond the disability and see the young person.

“All children have the right to a safe and enjoyable education – we must put a stop to all forms of bullying. Around 1.5 million of the school population, almost one in five, have a special educational need, over half a million children have a disability - they are a large minority who need our support.

“According to Mencap figures eight out of ten children with a learning disability have been bullied and six out of ten physically hurt. That’s means they’re twice as likely to be targeted than other children, I find that utterly deplorable and something we must all work to put a stop to.

“That’s why we’re publishing new guidance for schools on tackling this particularly unpleasant and worryingly pervasive form of bullying."

Also announced in the package of measures are the first wave of pilots for the Disabled Children’s Access to Childcare project which will to run in ten areas: Northumberland, Sefton, Bradford, Nottinghamshire, Solihull, Luton, Barking & Dagenham, Camden, Oxfordshire and Cornwall. These areas will each get a share of an extra £35 million from 2008 to 2011.

The main issues to be addressed by the pilots include: the shortage of childcare places for disabled children, shortage of breakfast and after school places and holiday clubs; lack of flexibility for caring for able bodied and disabled children at the same time, making it difficult for parents with more than one child; lack of appropriately skilled staff including special education needs co-ordinating officers; high costs of childcare;and slow assessments.

The pilots are going to explore the best way of increasing access, and will test ways that the best practice can be easily replicated across the country.

It was also announced that a coalition between Serco and Contact a Family has been contracted to form a new national support body: Together for Disabled Children.

The body will help Local Authorities and PCTs to provide short breaks for families with disabled children, to give children the chance to develop new relationships and interests and experience life away from their parents as other children do, and give their parents some time away from caring. Together for Disabled Children will also help to develop parent forums and promote parental engagement in local decision making around disability issues.

The short breaks work will focus on the 21 pathfinders announced in January as well as wider work across all areas so significant improvements can be made in the quantity and quality of short breaks on offer.

Aiming High for Disabled Children announced £280m for short break services over three years. The Children’s Plan announced a further £90m in capital funding for short breaks giving a total of £370m.
Together for Disabled Children will also take forward the Government’s commitment for all local areas to engage with parents of disabled children, for example through parent forums; and help parents and disabled children to influence the design and delivery of local services.

The Core Offer is a new national statement of what every child, young person and their family has a right to expect from their local services. It is based on five core principles of transparency, information, assessment, participation and feedback. Local Authorities and PCTs are expected to use the national Core Offer to develop their local services and implementation materials to support this are also being published.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families and Department of Health have produced a programme summary document and a new section on the Every Child Matters website to give parents and professionals more information and emphasise the joint working between departments on this critical agenda. There will also be an easy read version of the document and a summary for children and young people.

Ed Balls said:
“We want this country to be the best place in the world for children to grow up. That means giving every child the chance to excel and enjoy their education without fear of bullying.

“Children and young people with disabilities and their families also have a right to expect quality from local services – and it’s vital those services engage with parents, who are the real experts in their children’s individual needs.”

Ivan Lewis said:

"We want children with disabilities to get the best possible start in life and it is important that families with disabled children know what to expect from services nationally and locally and understand how decisions are made.

“The core offer will empower parents by improving the information they receive and ensuring greater transparency of decision making. We want to see the NHS listening to them individually and through Local Information Networks and Parent Forums; ensuring that their views, ideas and experiences shape services."

Andrew Adonis said:
“We are empowering disabled children and their families, and making sure services are responsive to their needs. Local Authorities and PCTs can now improve what is on offer and better co-ordinate support.

“Local authorities are now required to provide short breaks for families with disabled children, and we are backing that with £370 million. This is another step on the journey to improve the lives of children with special educational needs and disabilities.”

Editor’s Notes
This press notice relates to ’England’
Aiming High: for Disabled Children: Better Support for Families.
Aiming High for Disabled Children: Transforming Services for Disabled Children and their Families.
Safe to Learn:
Council for Disabled Children:

Contact Details
Public Enquiries 0870 000 2288, [email protected]

Press Notice 2008/0091

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