Children and Families Bill

Memorandum submitted by Alice Jackman (CF 136)

1 Summary

To a member of the public, it would appear that Health, Education and Social Care Law are 'second class' pieces of law. If a local authority or PCT is not following the law, there is no policeman that one can phone up and nobody gets arrested and charged for breaking the law. Indeed, there is no censure and no cost to the government agencies for not following the law. Their constituents have little hope, not only are they looking after a disabled child, but they are then pitted against the professionals of the County Legal Team. This is at the very least unsporting – not in the Great British Tradition at all. More paper will not change policies, people will. Please give us policemen that we can go to, in Real Time, who will enforce the law for us and stop the endemic production of paperwork – we want outcomes.

The key problem of the old legislation, and the new, is one of Conflict of Interest. The same person/team that assess needs then has to decide how to meet those needs from a fixed budget.

2 My background and expertise

- 23 year old son on the autistic spectrum who also has a life-threatening condition

- 14 year old foster son on the autistic spectrum

- I run a small charity, Club Capernaum that runs a weekly integrated youth group and an annual residential camp for 14 – 30 year olds, with and without disabilites

3 Explanation

4 There appear to be no legal levers available to enforce Health, Education or Social Care Law. My son asked to move out of a residential home 2 years ago, and all that has happened is that he has been assessed, reassessed, his assessments have been assessed, and for him, nothing has changed. The NHS will not meet with us or Social Services and nobody can make them do so.

We need a policeman versed in the above laws in each county hall, so that parents can alert him to individuals breaking the law, and then due process, evidence gathering and consequences of not obeying the law would follow.

5 The Complaints system is not fit for purpose.

We have 18 complaints in to the Local Council over the whole experience. They brought in an 'external' assessor, who decided that they could be seen as 14 complaints. She then made 10 recommendations for change, she could not decide what she thought about the last 4, and she upheld 0 of our complaints. Why did she not uphold 10 of our complaints if she was making 10 recommendations?

The complaints system takes too long and we have no confidence in its ability to redress wrongs and no evidence that it does so.

6 Areas of Conflict of Interest need to be identified and Eliminated.

In other areas of local government, such as assessing houses for council tax, this conflict has been resolved by separating the assessors and the benefactors. So a house is assessed by the department of Inland Revenue, and then the Local Council collects the assessed tax.

There needs to be a break in the chain. The Single Assessment Process is a great idea, but those assessing need to be able to do so without having to also solve the problem of how to pay for the solutions to the challenges they identify. There needs to be a transparent tariff for assessed needs, not a set of hidden Panels. Otherwise we will continue to have the highly confrontational and litigious process that we have now. Currently, it appears that we take better care of our houses than we do of our children.

7 There is no benefit to Local Authorities to follow newer and more expensive legislation. Their budgets are smaller and yet some parents believe that their children need more help than is being offered. If the local authorities did what was required immediately, it would cost them more. If they delay, and are then told to do what they should have done at first, there are no punitive damages, or costs awarded to the family for the distress caused by litigation, or the pain of their child's life being put on hold while agencies argue about who will pay the bill. In fact, if the council delays, then they improve their cash flow and the family may not even be able to enforce the law and so the council will not incur any additional costs at all.

8 The expectation that disabled young people will be able to get work is misleading.

Current university graduates are struggling to get ordinary jobs in shops – why would an employer spend extra time and resources to enable a disabled person to do the same job? Disabled people can often only work part time, need support and longer training – all of which make them more complicated to employ. I applaud the aspirational thought that those who want to, should be able to work. However, society does not yet appear ready for this – and we are breaking another generation of hearts of young people who are desperate to work, who regularly get told that they 'are brilliant, and should have no problem getting work', who cannot find work. This is cruel. We need to change the curriculum so that these young people can leave school with a trade – they need an 'edge' in our competitive world.

April 2013

Prepared 2nd May 2013