Parents in Rugby have warned Warwickshire County Council that revised service cuts to disabled children and their parents could still be illegal.
The Integrated Disability Service budget helps care for thousands of sick and disabled children with varying needs in Warwickshire, but it has had its budget cut by the authority by 30 per cent. The council insists the savings are necessary, but recently parents have claimed that if support is withdrawn then the council may not fulfil its legal obligations and could face a judicial review. They also claim that a withdrawal of carer support services would result in more families breaking down, more families being driven below the poverty line and more disabled children put into foster care.
Ruth Walwyn, chair of Family Voice Warwickshire, said: “The council’s intention to monitor ‘whether [withdrawal of frontline service] does lead to increased numbers of families requiring more intensive interventions’ indicates it has moved away from its statutory duty to ‘safeguard and promote the welfare’ of disabled children and will not seek to prevent harm being done to themselves or their families, instead it will only act after harm has occurred.”
She added: “The council’s cabinet should be aware that under these proposals it is quite possible that a judicial review would accept the council has ‘unlawfully fetter[ed] its discretion’ under the Children’s Act 1989.”
A new, stricter ‘matrix of need’, which would dictate what specific help children and families would be entitled to, was due to be agreed on this week, but this decision has now been postponed due to the council not making accompanying reports publicly available five days before the meeting. It will now be discussed on December 12.
The group have also published a letter sent to councillors from Rebecca Page of Priors Marston that includes a breakdown of the hidden costs taken up by full-time care of disabled children. Mrs Page’s ten-year-old daughter Aleisha has autism and cannot talk, go to the toilet alone, or be left alone incase she hurts herself by banging her head against a wall. Both her parents have health conditions related to stress and anxiety, with her mother suffering from migraines, and her father from depression.
Aleisha currently receives the maximum amount of care, but according to her mother, under the proposals she wouldn’t qualify, leading to a 31 per cent cut in service.
A Warwickshire County Council spokesperson said: “We cannot prejudice the meeting by commenting before members have had a chance to debate the report.
“Equality impact assessments were carried out as part of the process when the proposals contained in the report were considered and full legal due diligence was followed.”