Focus: Policy and Politics - Question Time - Ed Balls, Labour MP for Normanton

WHAT IS THE PURPOSE of your Disabled Children's Assessment and Services Bill?

The Bill has three aims. The first is to strengthen the rights of disabled children to an assessment. A consortium of charities and I have taken the view that the current Children's Act isn't clear enough on the rights of disabled children to an assessment. As a consequence, a lot of children end up not being assessed for support services.

WHAT ELSE?

It makes explicit in legislation the fact that respite care should be one of the services that the families of disabled children are assessed for. The third thing it does is place an obligation on the NHS and local authorities to work together in providing those services.

WHAT HAPPENS AT THE MOMENT?

Too often, the complex needs of families with disabled children fall through the gaps. Either the assessment doesn't occur or, when it does, the range of services isn't fully provided - or what is often a complex collaboration between local health and social services doesn't quite work out.

WHICH CHARITIES HAVE YOU BEEN WORKING WITH?

Contact a Family, Mencap, the Council for Disabled Children and the Special Education Consortium.

WERE THERE PROBLEMS NOT DEALT WITH IN THE BUDGET?

I don't see the joint Treasury/DfES review of support for families with disabled children as a substitute for the Bill. It is also important to look at the way in which services are supplied, and also to look more broadly across education, childcare and tax credits.

WHAT'S THE NEXT STEP?

We're looking to persuade the Government to take it up or to get MPs who come high up in the Private Member's Bill ballot in the autumn to adopt the legislation.

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