The Government have u-turned on improving the lives of families with disabled children

February 6, 2013 11:19 am

David Cameron went into the last general election claiming that his Government would be the ‘most family friendly Government ever’. These words came back to haunt him when former Children’s Minister Tim Loughton, a respected figure amongst Child professionals, claimed that children and families  were simply ‘not a priority’ in the Department for Education. Loughton went on to say that his brief ‘was a declining priority within the department’ and that ‘the children and families agenda has been greatly downgraded since the reshuffle’, adding that there had been ‘neglect’ with children and families policy.

Such a scathing attack coincides with the latest Guardian/ICM polling which makes grim reading for a Prime Minister who is desperate to prove his party can appeal to women and families. But the Guardian’s poll confirms a continuing gender gap in voting behaviour – among women voters the Tories languish a massive 16 points behind Labour, securing a mere 29% support compared to Labour’s 45%. And no wonder when 81% of the key additional direct tax, tax credit, and benefit changes in the Autumn Statement will come from women, with the Government itself admitting that the Welfare Benefits Uprating Bill will push another 200,000 children into poverty.

However nothing quite illustrates the Government’s complete disregard for the difficulties facing families today as much as their failure to address the needs of families with disabled children. The Government has already slashed the support provided to around 100,000 disabled children in half, with their families facing a reduction in income by up to £1,366 per year – more than £20,000 over the course of childhood. In addition, research by the disability charity Scope has found that the families with disabled children are being pushed to breaking point as result of a lack of local support. Two thirds  of families with disabled children cannot access the services their children need in their local area such as childcare or nursery places, appropriate schools, essential therapies or even healthcare in their local area, with half of these families saying they are unable to hold down a job as a result. No one knows this better than Grace, a mother of an autistic child, who is forced to drive almost 400 miles a week just in order to get her daughter Lara to school and the therapy she needs.

And since the recent reshuffle where Sarah Teather left her position as Minister of State for Children, the issue has swiftly dropped down the priority list of the Department for Education. The forthcoming Children and Families Bill, which includes the biggest reforms to SEN provision in 30 years, simply fails to address the daily struggles that families with disabled families face to get even the most basic support. That the government is wasting such a vital opportunity to help these families is shameful. They must get their priorities right if they are ever to convince the half a million families with disabled children, and indeed the public at large, that they haven’t made yet another U-turn on their commitment to be the most ‘family friendly government ever’.

Teresa Pearce is the Labour MP for Erith and Thamesmead

Latest

  • Comment UKIP’s attitude to accountability should worry us all

    UKIP’s attitude to accountability should worry us all

    UKIP’s reaction to the allegations over the use of the party’s EU funding has been telling. It tells us that they are not yet ready to take the step up from a being an assortment of oddballs and cranks to a serious political party. After The Times ran their front page on Tuesday, UKIP’s immediate reaction was to denounce the paper as a mouthpiece for the establishment, rather than bother to refute what they felt was incorrect about the article. […]

    Read more →
  • Featured In praise of Simon Danczuk

    In praise of Simon Danczuk

    Simon Danczuk has led the front pages this week with his explosive account of how an MP could hide a lifetime of abusing children. The Westminster reaction to his Cyril Smith allegations? Embarrassed coughs. Good on Simon for having the courage to speak his mind. Since his 2010 election, itself a feat of endurance, he’s demonstrated a forensic mind and a canny eye for a story. He represents a diminishing Westminster breed, a ‘character’ who speaks with an authentic voice […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Featured Swinging The Axe – Why hiring Axelrod means Miliband is going big

    Swinging The Axe – Why hiring Axelrod means Miliband is going big

    David Axelrod has been hired by Labour to work on the party’s general election campaign. First – let me get the excitement out. David Axelrod is the biggest star in the world when it comes to political campaigning. Nevermind “guru”, this guy is a campaigning deity in his own right. From Barack Obama’s Chicago kitchen table to the Oval Office was a journey that few thought possible, but Axelrod managed the shift from state senator, to Senator, to President in […]

    Read more →
  • News Video David Axelrod’s video message to Labour members and supporters

    David Axelrod’s video message to Labour members and supporters

    Labour’s new strategist David Axelrod – who helped get Obama elected in 2008 and 2012 – has recorded a message for Labour members and supporters. He argues that “It’s isn’t people like me who win these elections – it’s people like you” – here’s the video in full:

    Read more →
  • Comment 10 social history visits for British politicos

    10 social history visits for British politicos

    New Lanark (Lanarkshire) The Robert Owen Museum (Montgomeryshire) The People’s Palace (Glasgow) St Giles’ Cathedral (Edinburgh) The People’s History Museum (Manchester) The International Slavery Museum (Liverpool) Cable Street (London) The Holocaust Memorial Garden (London) The British Library (London) The Tolpuddle Martyrs Museum (Dorset) Obviously most LabourList readers think of this Saturday as part of the countdown to polling day but on the off-chance your organiser is letting you get any friends and family time this holiday weekend, here are ten […]

    Read more →