Disabled Children

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:12 pm on 3rd February 2003.

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Photo of The Bishop of Lichfield The Bishop of Lichfield Bishop 8:12 pm, 3rd February 2003

My Lords, I understand that there is a known rise in childhood autism in this country. I understand that there is a high proportion of children with serious and complex disabilities. I understand that there is an increase of life-limiting illnesses among disabled children. An Oxfordshire study by the parents advisory group confirmed many of the findings of the Barnardo's report.

The Oxfordshire study revealed the overwhelming need in 232 families, studied for a range of support services. They needed help with overnight respite care and regular reliable short breaks for carers. They needed help either in the family home or elsewhere. They needed sitters, after-school clubs and appropriate play and leisure provision to overcome social isolation.

The overall shortfall in funding has meant that the introduction of new regulations and legislation for children has not been properly implemented to meet baseline needs. Further, the lack of sufficient funding is exacerbated by the increasingly complex funding formulae. I gather that the local authority circular last year is a good example of the headaches afflicting officers and councillors when they are trying to work out what grants are available and when they are available for the children in need.

I urge the Government to consider increasing funding to local health and social services authorities to a level above inflation so that the needs of families with disabled children can be more adequately met.