Children 'in pain over wheelchairs'

Education Editor,Richard Garner
Wednesday 09 March 2011 16:48 GMT

Disabled youngsters are having to wait up to a year for wheelchairs with the result they have outgrown them by the time they arrive, it emerged today.

Often, they then face a hospital operation because of the effect an uncomfortable chair can have on their muscles.

The story emerged today as the Government announced plans for a radical overhaul in the way children with special needs are assessed.

Out will go the controversial statements which can take months to compile before agreeing on measures to support an individual child.

In its place will come a single assessment process which will detail a child’s educational and health needs.

Christine Lenehan, director of the Council for Disabled Children, said that – under current procedures – children could face as many as 32 assessments by the time they reach the age of eight.

“Every time you’re assessed you have to tell your story,” she said. “If you’re the parent of a disabled child so telling your story hurts.”

She added: “We have have had children waiting up to six months or even a year for their wheelchair.

“Some of the services for wheelchairs are incredibly inefficient.

“A child can’t go to school and can be in pain while they wait. We’ve had children who have had to go into hospital because the wheelchair affects their muscle growth.”

She was speaking at the launch of a Green Paper outlining the biggest reforms to tackling special needs for at least thirty years.

“Too often the particular support that children and their families require is put in place needlessly late,” it said.

“Parents say that the system is bureaucratic, bewildering and adversarial and does not sufficiently reflect the needs of their child and their family circumstances ...

“While some families deal with these challenges on top of juggling a range of support for their child, in many households the demands of everyday family life mean that parents are exhausted from having to put additional energy into getting the help their child needs.”

Under them, parents will have the right to apply to take over the running of their special school if the local authority wants to close it .

The school could then operate as one of Education Secretary Michael Gove’s flagship “free” schools.

Ministers revealed today that a number of voluntary groups and charities had expressed interest in running their own special schools.

It could lead to specialists in tackling dyslexia or autism getting state aid to run schools.

Children’s Minister Sarah Teather said: “We have heard time and time again that parents are frustrated with endless delays to getting the help their child needs and by being caught in the middle when local services don’t work together.

“The new single assessment process and plan will tackler this issue and mean that parents don’t feel they have to push to get the services they are entitled to.”

However, Andy Burnham, Labour’s education spokesman, said the Green Paper’s “”noble aims seem hopelessly out of touch with the reality on the ground”.

“Councils are laying off the specialist teams that carry out the assessments and provide the support these children need,” he added.

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