Opposition Day — [3rd Allotted Day]
Danny Alexander (Shadow Minister and Disability Spokesperson, Work & Pensions; Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey, Liberal Democrat)
That is probably good news, and I welcome the Minister's immediate response to the pressure that I applied to her. It would be useful if she could deposit copies of the new form in the Library of the House, so that hon. Members can judge its length and degree of complexity, but it is good to hear that, after nine years, the Government are taking the matter seriously.
I want to touch on some of the issues to do with services for disabled children that the hon. Member for South-West Surrey mentioned in his opening remarks. It is important to make it clear at the outset that we are not dealing with a homogenous group, as every disabled child needs his or her own package of services. Therefore, support services such as respite care or therapy should not be regarded as luxuries for disabled children and their families. For many children with specific needs, such services are necessities.
The Minister referred in her remarks to the social model of disability. In that context, we should take "services" to mean anything that helps children to live independent and normal lives and ensures that they do not miss out on any experience enjoyed by children who are not disabled. Parents of disabled children often say, "Our children have the right to have fun, like any other child." That is as important in this debate as any of the service provision that has been mentioned so far.
I have listened with interest to the constituency cases that have been described. It is true that the system sometimes discriminates against families who are unwilling or unable to fight or shout loudly, or to pay independently for services, assessments and legal support. For example, information about services is less likely to reach families from ethnic minority communities.
I am conscious of the time, so I shall end my remarks by saying that although all hon. Members are very aware of the needs of disabled children, we must do more than introduce policies in the piecemeal fashion of the past few years. Instead, we must look across the system to determine how we can introduce more thoroughgoing reforms, so that the interests of disabled children are placed at the top of our agenda.