Leading article: Compassionate Conservatism

Related Topics

It is common for political leaders to deliver speeches on topics on which they have no personal experience. But that will not be the case when David Cameron addresses an autism conference today on the subject of special needs. In February, the Conservative leader sadly lost his six-year old son, Ivan, who had suffered from cerebral palsy and severe epilepsy.

When it comes to special needs, Mr Cameron knows whereof he speaks. Armed with knowledge of the bureaucratic jungle faced by parents in similar situations, he is putting forward sensible proposals to improve the lives of children with disabilities, as well as their carers. The expected pledge that a future Conservative government will put an immediate stop to the programme of special school closures is welcome. Undoubtedly, some disabled children benefit from being educated in a mainstream school. But the Government's policy of pushing "inclusion" has made life harder for many disabled children and their carers. Special schools still have a vital place.

The pledge from the Conservative leader to increase the number of family health visitors and the availability of respite care will also be greeted with enthusiasm by the parents of many disabled children. These carers will also share Mr Cameron's frustration with the "statementing" process which defines the nature of a child's special needs. The present system is complex and onerous. It is also often unfair. Local councils, which administer care, have a financial incentive to keep down costs. Too often, they focus on costs rather than needs. The idea the Tory leader will outline of putting budgets for a disabled child's health, education and care in the hands of parents makes sense. This is the kind of shift that can help bring the voluntary sector into the provision of public services, one of Mr Cameron's longstanding strategic goals.

The big stumbling block is resources. These reforms cost money. But with a future Conservative government committed to cutting spending and terrified of making spending pledges, can this be really delivered? On special needs, Mr Cameron understands the problems and has sound ideas on how to improve matters. But the test is whether he can turn bold plans into reality.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Commercial Litigation NQ+

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE NQ to MID LEVEL - An e...


Highly Attractive Pakage: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - A highly attractive oppor...

Senior Marketing Manager - Central London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (Campaigns, Offlin...

Head of Marketing - Acquisition & Direct Reponse Marketing

£90000 - £135000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing (B2C, Acquisition...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Norovirus the food poisoning bug that causes violent stomach flu  

A flu pandemic could decide next year’s election

Matthew Norman
J. Jayalalithaa gestures to her party supporters while standing on the balcony of her residence in Chennai. Former film star Jayalalithaa Jayaram is one of India's most colourful and controversial politicians  

The jailing of former film star Jayalalithaa Jayaram is a drama even Bollywood couldn’t produce

Andrew Buncombe
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?