First austerity and now the pandemic: the Tories have devastated disabled children’s services

Maureen and Calvin Muteesa

The Disabled Children’s Partnership (DCP) has launched a campaign calling on chancellor Rishi Sunak to properly fund disabled children’s social care in the wake of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. Maureen Muteesa has shared an open letter in collaboration with DCP detailing her son’s experience of the pandemic.

Muteesa claims that services denied her son treatment, and he didn’t have access to education for a year. Research by DCP suggests that this was the case for hundreds of disabled children and their families during lockdown. The coalition is asking members of the public to sign the open letter urging the government to support disabled children and their families.

‘We feel forgotten’

In a campaign video, Muteesa states:

The pandemic has left my family and myself isolated, depressed, and we feel forgotten.

In her open letter to the chancellor, Muteesa details her 15-year-old son’s experience of lockdown. She states that because Calvin’s school lacked the resources needed to provide remote learning, he missed an entire year of the education he’s entitled to. Reflecting on his year of social isolation, Calvin stated: “I missed all my friends”.

According to his mother, Calvin has complex medical needs and requires 24-hour support. She adds that because he couldn’t attend school, he also didn’t have access to physiotherapy. As a result, his muscles have deteriorated. He can no longer walk safely, and now needs an operation. She states that the limited access to support services throughout the pandemic “has left a massive mental toll”.

Highlighting that even before the pandemic, she had to fight to get minimal and insufficient support for her son, Muteesa concludes:

Read on...

The government has to do better for families like mine. It needs to invest so that children and families can recover from the missed services during the pandemic.

Hundreds of families without support

The DCP is a coalition of organisations working to improve health and social care for disabled children, young people, and their families. Research by the DCP suggests that the Muteesa’s are not alone in their experience of lockdown. 48% of respondents to the survey of 1,200 families stated that they could no longer access support at their child’s school as a result of the pandemic. Nearly three quarters of respondents stated that the management of their children’s conditions worsened due to the pandemic. And disabled children and their families reported high levels of social isolation.

This experience of isolation and inadequate support is nothing new for disabled children and their families. In 2017, the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities urged the UK government to implement a number of major changes to ensure the rights of disabled children and young people are respected. This came after a 2016 report stating that Tory austerity, cuts and reforms had resulted in “grave and systematic” violations of the rights of disabled people. For years, families have been calling out for adequate resources and support, but they were met with further cuts to disabled children’s social care services.

Ahead of the autumn spending review, the DCP coalition is calling on chancellor Rishi Sunak to properly fund disabled children’s social care. This includes a top-up to “fill the £434 million pre-pandemic funding gap in disabled children’s social care services”. The coalition is also urging the government to establish a fund to resource research and innovation in disabled children’s social care services.

The coalition is calling on members of the public to join the campaign to support disabled children and their families in the wake of the pandemic. People looking to get involved can start by signing and sharing Muteesa’s open letter to the chancellor.

Featured image via @DCPcampaign/Twitter 

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