Coalition launches short breaks bill

The Every Disabled Child Matters coalition is launching the Disabled Children (Family Support) Bill 2007, its second private members bill aimed at securing the right to short breaks for families of disabled children.

The coalition has sought legal advice and believes that the right already exists in law, but says legal reform is needed to ensure that it is enforced.

It hopes to expose the current legal framework to scrutiny by actively supporting a family that is prepared to see through a test case. The coalition has yet to find such a family and said that it was not in a position to support families engaged in similar legal challenges generally.

The bill was drafted for the coalition by lawyer Luke Clements, to whom it turned for advice, and builds on the Disabled Children (Family Support) Bill 2006, which was introduced to Parliament by Gary Streeter MP, but failed to progress because of lack of support.

Christine Lenehan, director of the Council for Disabled Children and board member of the coalition, said: “The opinion of the lawyers Paul Bowen and Luke Clements suggests that thousands of families with disabled children have been denied services that may have been theirs by right.

“The coalition will be contacting our supporters to look for potential legal cases to test this in the courts.

“However, what families really need is a clear and unequivocal right in legislation – and our Disabled Children (Family Support) Bill 2007 would give them this right.”

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