Friday, 10 April 2015

Cuts to services: know your rights!

Recently, there has been a lot of very worrying talk on twitter about cuts to LA funding (or consultations about cuts to funding) for disabled children's services. For example, see this article tweeted by @JarlathOBrien this morning.

These cuts appear to be being made around the country but seem to be targetted at two key areas:  (i) transport and (ii) so-called 'short break' funding.

We wanted to put out some information quickly about the law in this area. Let us know if there is anything we have missed and we will add it.

If any specialist lawyers out there would like to write something about consultation or challenging cuts, or the law in this area, then please let us know and we will add your piece/blog to the list below.

Similarly, if any parents, teachers etc would like to flag up what is happening in their area, let us know and we will add to the 'Tell us what is happening around the country' section below.

Transport

Many parents are finding themselves having to battle for transport to school funding as some LAs seek to reduce their budgets.

Barrister, Steve Broach, has produced this summary of the law on transport.

You can also find information on IPSEA's website here.

Contact-a-Family have produced this summary.

@bjpren has posted some useful information here based on her discussions with the DfE

Statutory guidance can be found here. Statutory guidance should eb followed unless there is a good reason not to follow it.

If in doubt about changes to LA policy or about the nature of any consultation being conducted, seek legal advice immediately. A list of solicitors who may be able to help can be found on the last page of this brochure but there are other firms. You need to look for a solicitor who is a specialist in SEN and public law.

'Short break' funding

Short breaks are invaluable services which support disabled children and their families. They include the provision of day, evening, overnight and weekend activities for the child or young person, and can take place in the child’s own home, the home of an approved carer, or in a residential or community setting.

Sadly, it appears that some LAs are engaged in consulting on cuts to these services or have already agreed cuts. Some are using other mechanisms to try and reduce their expenditure, like arbitrary cut off dates for applications etc.

EDCM has produced a guide  to the law on 'short breaks'. Again, this is an area which requires specialist legal advice.


Tell us what is happening around the country



We would like to build up a picture of consultations, challenges and unlawful practices around the country.

Let us know if you have information about what is happening in your area and we will add it here.

We feel Parent Carer Forums must be particularly careful if  engaged in consultation on these issues. They must ensure they know the law and don't seek to present themselves as acting for all parents.

Wiltshire Short Breaks

Wiltshire Council introduced an arbitrary cut-off date for 'short break' funding applications for 2015-2016 of 28 February 2015.

Anyone, including existing recipients of the funding, who did not apply by this date are being refused the opportunity to make an application and their funding has been withdrawn.

Worst of all, it seems that not all existing recipients were informed of this cut-off date. In previous years,  Compass Disability (who run the service for Wiltshire Council) wrote to all exisitng applicants with forms for renewal.

An initial response from Wiltshire Council suggests that, "following a series of WPCC consultation events on the Short Breaks Scheme with parent carers of children and young people with special educational needs and/or disability during June 2014 and a subsequent on-line survey, a fixed cut- off date for receiving applications has been implemented".

It appears that some parents had no idea this consultation was taking place and, of course, this should stop them receiving information about funding to which they are entitled.

If we are incorrect, perhaps Wiltshire Council, Wiltshire Parent Carer Council or Compass Disability would like to clarify what has been happening.


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