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Blanket ban on disabled children’s equipment ‘unlawful’ claims charity

PUBLISHED: 09:22 07 December 2018

The Suffolk County Council Building on Russell Road, Ipswich Picture: SU ANDERSON

The Suffolk County Council Building on Russell Road, Ipswich Picture: SU ANDERSON

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The denial of some specialist equipment to disabled children by Suffolk County Council (SCC) is unlawful, a charity has claimed.

Charity campaigner Clare Dangerfield Picture: NEW LIFECharity campaigner Clare Dangerfield Picture: NEW LIFE

New Life are a specialist disabled children’s charity which recently launched a campaign calling for local authorities across the UK to review their policies into disabled provision.

The report has honed in on four separate “barriers” to provision for under-18s living with impairments across the UK.

One the those barriers is “blanket bans” – when local authorities don’t stock specific specialist equipment to provide for children who may need it.

SCC do not provide specialist car seats for disabled children, saying that the chairs, which can prevent severely disabled children from potentially suffocating, are not part of their “statutory duty.”

An example of a specialist chair for disabled children costing up to £3,500 Picture: NEW LIFEAn example of a specialist chair for disabled children costing up to £3,500 Picture: NEW LIFE

The charity’s policies and campaign manager Clare Dangerfield said: “SCC say that there is not a statutory duty on the local authority to provide this service, we say that is debatable.

“It would take a judicial review to decide that.

“Councils like Suffolk are being unlawful in these blanket bans on equipment, the bans don’t allow for parents to appeal to get the equipment, the council can turn around and say: ‘we just don’t do that.’

“We have been told by barristers that they can’t ‘just do that’.”

SCC were quick to reiterate that the car seats were not a statutory requirement of the local authority and suggested that families could use their disability living allowance to pay for the seats.

New Life’s report also identified an issue with disabled child registers in local authorities, namely that they are missing thousands of children from their records.

Government figures show that there are 12,176 children living with disabilities in Suffolk, yet just 2,914 were registered with SCC as of January 2018.

Whilst it is not compulsory for all disabled children to be registered with the SCC, New Life say local authorities should reconsider this policy.

Ms Dangerfield said: “If there are over 9,000 disabled children who are not on the register how can the council plan for them?

“We are asking them to review the process.”

A SCC spokesman said: “We cannot use other data sources to populate the register and we cannot compel people to join.”

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