A CHARITY for disabled children has applauded 105 UK councils, including Coventry City Council, for adapting their policies to fund specialist car seats for disabled children if required.
New data has revealed that the number of local authorities refusing to provide disabled children with specialist car seats ‘under any circumstance’, has dropped from 83 to 50 per cent – a third – since Newlife, the Charity for Disabled Children, began directly challenging authorities a year ago.
Over the last 12 months, Newlife has actively challenged the councils that said they would not fund the equipment in a Freedom of Information request submitted by the charity.
Now, 105 councils say they will be able to provide specialist car seats if a need is identified including Birmingham City Council, Coventry, Herefordshire Council, Stoke-on-Trent City Council, Telford & Wrekin Council, City of Wolverhampton Council in the West Midlands.
Clare Dangerfield, Campaigning and Public Affairs Manager at Newlife, said: “We applaud those local authorities that have listened to our concerns and worked with us to adapt their policies to allow frontline staff to arrange for specialist car seats to be provided to children where it is essential for their safety.
“It’s simply not acceptable for councils to use blanket ban policies to push costs back onto parents. While a standard car-seat costs just £100, the kind of adapted seat required by disabled and terminally ill children can cost up to 35 times as much. Forcing parents to cover the cost of equipment denied by their council due to austerity measures drives families into poverty.
“Policies like these also cause incredible amounts of unnecessary suffering.
“Recently, a mum told us she had to sedate her son to get him into his car seat for journeys to the doctor due to the extreme pain he faced otherwise. Another child who had severe autism was denied a ‘safespace’ high-sided bed, and so banged his head so hard that his retinas detached. All because of restrictive, unnecessary blanket bans. This is just not acceptable.
“Although there has been a clear improvement in the number of children now affected by blanket bans on equipment, the fact is that children continue to be left facing unnecessary risk because of a postcode lottery and we will continue to put pressure on those councils that refuse to help keep disabled children safe by not providing the equipment they need.”
The charity says families with disabled children have faced “unnecessary suffering” and financial hardship with specialist car seats costing between £200 – £4,000 depending on the age and needs of a disabled child. Its research found the impact blanket bans on disability equipment potentially affected more than 560,000 disabled children.
Newlife believes rigid policies that refuse to provide a specialist car seat to any child regardless of their circumstances constitute a ‘blanket ban’ and commissioned barristers’ advice which said they would be challengeable in law. The charity believes such bans are likely to be contrary to the rights of disabled children outlined in the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act (1970) and Children’s Act (1989), putting vulnerable children at risk of serious injury or even death.
Newlife’s research revealed blanket bans are being used by councils across the country in relation to providing other equipment including walking frames, specialised buggies, arm supports and high-sided safety beds.
As a result, it has provided equipment worth £1,100,000 to more than 1,200 families in crisis in the past year and over the last five years Newlife has provided 93 car seat grants in the West Midlands, spending £112,141.16.
But the most prevalent use of a blanket ban was the widespread refusal of councils to fund specialist car seats to children who have a clear medical or safety need identified by a qualified professional.