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Breaks Bill needs your support

19 January 2007

Carers UK is calling on all carers to support the Disabled Children (Short Breaks) Bill which, if passed, would give parents of disabled children the right to a break from caring.


Disabled Children (Short Breaks) Bill needs your support!

Carers UK has given its firm backing to a Private Members Bill, sponsored by Gary Streeter MP, which would give parents of disabled children a break. The campaign behind the Bill is being run by the Every Disabled Child Matters Campaign, whose core members are Contact A Family, Mencap, the Council for Disabled Children and the Special Educational Consortium.

What is the Bill about?

The Bill presumes that disabled children and their families have a right to the same quality of life as other families:

Clause 1: ensures that that breaks will form part of the assessment and that short breaks should be of a quality that delivers positive benefits to both the child and to their carers (Clause 1(4)).

Clause 2 amends s. 17 of the Children Act 1989 to place a specific duty on local authorities to assess the needs of

the child and family for short break care, and provide services accordingly.

Clause 3 introduces a section which would ensure that disabled children with significant health needs still get a break. The Primary Care Trust or Local Health Board and the Children's Services Authority would have to work to deliver the most appropriate care.

Clause 4 strengthens parent carers rights to an assessment of their needs, by making that explicit. Even though this already exists in legislation, some local authorities have argued that parents of disabled children are not entitled to an assessment in their own right.

Clause 5 amends the definition of disability in the Children Act 1989 by inserting that of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. Children currently excluded from the Children Act definition, like those with high functioning autism, would be covered.

Why do we need this legislation?

Kay O'Shaunessy, Chair of Carers UK Plymouth Branch and mother of a 9 year old daughter, Amy, with severe and complex disabilities, sums up why this legislation is needed.

She says that it would have made life a lot easier. She said that it is often a battle to get any kind of break and she knows many families in a similar situation as she started the group, Friends and Families of Special Children, for similar families. It is one thing to agree to providing a break, then another putting it into practice and finding the right resources and, finally, it be a good experience for the child. Kay wants to see more short breaks have some kind of social and leisure activities for Amy whilst she and her husband have a break.

Like many carers, Kay says that breaks are vital to recharge their batteries and for her to see friends and have some normality in their lives. She also says that her and her husband need time with just themselves – when they are not being parents and full-time carers – for their daughter, Amy.

Why it needs your support

So far, the most major pieces of community care legislation for carers have been successful Private Member's Bills. However, they can easily fall and are vulnerable if the Government does not support the Bill. We need to show Government:

how strongly carers feel about breaks

why we need this legislation to give carers better rights and

why they should support the Bill and make it become law

Why just parents of disabled children? Why not all carers?

Having had three successful Private Members Bills, Carers UK knows that to try and amend the bill by broadening the definition would ruin any chance of it's success. Any major amendments to the Bill make it extremely vulnerable.

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