Just to prove that I don’t spend my whole life ranting about the system and that I am capable of sharing the good things, I thought I’d tell you about a little bit of good news we had this week.
I got a call on Tuesday from our local Children & Families Department to say that our request for short break funding for M (our 9yo) to attend a residential summer scheme for visually impaired children had been approved.
The fact that the funding was agreed and that it will pretty much cover the cost of the trip is fantastic, but what has amazed me even more was the ease of the process.
Usually to get any kind of grant, benefit, financial assistance, specialist service etc. We have to complete a myriad of different forms and supply various documents, and medical details as evidence, but in this case all it had involved was one phone call in which I was asked for my daughter’s name and date of birth. At the time I made the request I wasn’t even asked anything about the details of the residential break.
So, many of you parents of disabled children will relate to how incredulous I was to get a call to say we could have the money. I almost didn’t believe the lady. It was only at this point that she asked me to confirm where M would be going and who was organising it and that was it. No more information needed. All I have to do is to go and sign the forms.
So, for all you parents of disabled children who are as amazed at this as me and for anyone else who might now be sitting and fretting about a public organisation frittering away your reluctantly paid taxes without even bothering to check any details, this is, to the best of my knowledge, why this process was so easy.
A few years ago under a Government Initiative called ‘Aiming High For Disabled Children money was given to local authorities to provide short breaks for disabled children. Under this programme there were some things that local authorities had to do and other things they were given some discretion over. More information about how local authorities could use this money can be found here.
One of the things that local authorities were allowed to do was to set up a ‘local offer’ which would make it clear and simple to families and allow as many people as possible to have a short break. In our area that ‘local offer’ is that they will provide a sum of £300 for every disabled child. Those with more complex needs would get more, but my understanding is that to get more they would need to go through a more complex assessment process.
So there we are, £300 apparently there for the asking!
Well not quite, it does need to be used to provide a break for a disabled child, so why didn’t we have to fill in all the usual forms and supply all the usual evidence? Well, for once the system worked!
As far as I am aware each local authority keeps a Register of Disabled Children This is a tool they use to help them plan the need for local services etc. Parents do not have to register their children, but there can be advantages to doing so. This, it turns out, was one of them.* Because M is on the disabled children’s register for which we had obviously completed the forms some years ago, they had all her details on their system and didn’t need to come back for further proof. So, for anyone worrying about protecting public money, that’s how they did it.
Wouldn’t it be nice if there were many more examples of services that were available like this? Just think of all that stress and hassle that could be removed. I suspect it is also an efficient way of administering the money too. No complicated assessments to organise, no application forms to analyse, no means testing, income checking and bills to be sent out. Everyone wins!
So, my reason for writing this, apart from to prove that I can praise good services and systems when they exist, is to make sure other parents know about disabled children ‘s registers. You don’t have to register your child, but there may be some advantages to doing so. Contact your local Children & Families Service and ask to find out more.
The other thing you may want to ask your local authority about is their ‘local offer’ regarding short breaks under the ‘Aiming High for Disabled Children’ programme. I think that each local authority will have agreed different rules for this. But it would definitely be worth looking into, you never know you might just get something.
Although I’m sure that for some of you this is old news and you may well know the systems better than me, but there may be people out there who don’t know, so please share this and hopefully someone might find an opportunity they didn’t previously know about.
Thanks for reading.
*NOTE. The ‘local offer’ in our area applies to all disabled children, not just those on the disabled children’s register. It was being on the register that made the process so easy because they already had all the necessary details. Other’s can access the funding but would, presumably have to complete more forms.