Thousands of severely disabled and terminally ill children’s safety is being compromised because of “major and unlawful failings” surrounding the provision of specialist equipment in the UK.
That’s according to a new report from Newlife, which is calling on the Government to “urgently” introduce new measures to improve equipment provision for disabled children.
The report, unveiled today, claims that children are being deprived of specialist equipment like walking frames, specialist car seats and beds, because current policies prioritise budgets ahead of “health and necessity”.
Newlife’s CEO, Sheila Brown, criticised Government decision-making for being “based on frugality” and said that children are left to suffer in pain because of current policies.
The report claims that local statutory services’ blanket bans that restrict equipment are challengeable in law and demands a change in the policy.
Often used as a way to ration shrinking budgets, a blanket ban means local authorities refuse to provide a particular piece of equipment ‘under any circumstances’. Each authority has its own criteria for applying these bans, for example; no wheelchair assessments for under-threes and no walking frames for a child who will never walk independently.
The report also suggests that nearly 90% of children are missing from local disability registers, meaning it makes it difficult for local authorities to budget and plan resources in order to provide enough equipment.
Ms Brown said: “There’s lots of complex reasons why children are being failed. The law protects their rights to live safely, to have the opportunity to learn and to reach their potential, whatever that may be. We believe that if the government ‘fixes’ the four big issues highlighted here, then hundreds of thousands of our children will benefit.”
Newlife’s four-point-plan calls on national and individual local statutory services to work with the charity to cease the use of blanket bans for rationing equipment, established an emergency equipment response service, introduce maximum waiting times on equipment assessments and ensure each disabled child is registered.
The emergency equipment response service would be designed to prevent injury, to allow hospital discharge and to relieve pain.
For the past five years Newlife has been running the UK’s first and only Emergency Loan service, delivering specialist equipment to disabled children in crisis within 72 hours of request. It said there has been a three-fold increase in emergency requests for equipment from local health care professionals in the last five years.
Sheila Brown, said: “We’ve proven an emergency equipment service works, but more worryingly, that there’s a desperate need for this type of rapid response for specialist equipment for children.
“We must ensure that no child is in danger because they don’t have the right piece of equipment and are calling on government and local services to introduce local based emergency equipment services – it really is a matter of life and death for some children.”
She concluded: “The Government needs to put an end to blanket bans and the ‘we don’t do’ mindset. Every local authority and health service must have an identified, transparent process for reviewing equipment requests.”