Disabled children's services face £1.5bn shortfall, charities warn

Tristan Donovan
Monday, July 16, 2018

Health and social care services for disabled children are being undermined by a £1.5bn annual funding shortfall, a coalition of charities has claimed.

The Disabled Children's Partnership, which consists of 60 charities, said the underfunding is leaving children and families in England struggling to get the help and support they need and will cost taxpayers more in the long run.

Most of the shortfall is in NHS services including money to pay for drug treatments and visits to GPs or accident and emergency departments. The partnership said the money available for these services are underfunded by an estimated £1.1bn a year. In addition, local authority social care services for disabled children face a £434m annual shortfall.

The funding shortfall was calculated following research conducted on behalf of the partnership by consultancy Development Economics. The estimate is based on information gathered from Freedom of Information requests, a questionnaire of charities that support disabled children, interviews with academics and data from organisations such as the Local Government Association.

The partnership wants the government to increase funding for disabled children's services including support in schools, short breaks and speech therapy. Without the extra money, it warns that services will be unable to sufficiently meet the needs of disabled children.

"There are over one million disabled children in the UK, 33 per cent more than a decade ago. Yet we know that fewer disabled children than ever before are currently getting support," said Richard Kramer, chief executive of Sense and vice-chair of the Disabled Children's Partnership.

"Our research shows there is a funding gap in disabled children's services, which means tens of thousands are missing out on vital help that enables them to do things other children take for granted like eat, talk, leave the house, have fun and attend school."

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Kramer also said the shortage of services caused by the shortfall is costing the taxpayer more: "When families reach crisis point, they are forced to use unplanned, emergency services which are hugely expensive to the taxpayer. It makes no sense to deny families of disabled children the services they need - doing so means storing up even bigger problems for the future."

A government spokesman said the needs of disabled children are being addressed through reforms to special educational needs support and extra money for the NHS.

"Anyone who needs to access health and care should not face any barriers - especially children with disabilities and their families," said the spokesman.

"Our reforms to special educational needs support - the biggest in a generation - mean nearly 320,000 disabled children and young people now have a tailored plan to ensure they get the help they need. And through our long-term plan for the NHS we will be able to invest more in support for disabled children, with the health service receiving £20.5bn a year more by 2023/24."

The partnership's finding comes amid growing concern about a lack of money for children's services.

The shortfall in NHS funding identified by the partnership's research is in addition to the £2bn gap in children's services funding that the Local Government Association predicts councils will face by 2020.

Last month Anne Longfield, children's commissioner for England, called on the government to urgently review the pressures on supporting the needs of children with special educational needs and disabilities.

The consequences of the shortfall in funding identified by the Disabled Children's Partnership is set to explored on the BBC's Panorama programme this evening.

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