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Disability and the Law: Children

The Children and Families Act 2014 became law on 13 March 2014 and has reformed the systems for adoption, looked after children, family justice and special educational needs.

The main changes established for Children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities were:

  • A new Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plan based on a single assessment process replaced special education statements and Learning Difficulty Assessments. This plan provides statutory protections comparable to those currently associated with a statement of SEN up to the age of 25.
  • In line with this the rights of appeal to the SEND Tribunals has been extended to further education
  • The commissioning and planning of services for children, young people and families is run jointly by health services and the local authorities.
  • The rights to a personal budget to support children, young people and families were extended.
  • Schools and Local authorities must now make the Local services available to children and families with SEND accessible to families in the form of a Local Offer. This must be provided in a clear, easy to read manner.
  • Local authorities now have a duty to involve families and children in discussions and decisions relating to their care and education; and provide impartial advice, support and mediation services.
Full of Life · A self-help group managed by parents of children with disabilities

For more information about the Children and Families Act, and to keep up to date with the proposed changes to SEN, please visit the Ipsea website www.ipsea.org.uk/

Children Act 1989

The Act imposes a general duty on local councils to provide a range of services to ‘children in need’ in their area if those services will help keep a child safe and well. Some services are provided by the council free of charge, although councils can also decide which services you will need to pay for, or contribute to.

A ‘child in need’ may be:

  • disabled
  • unlikely to have, or to have the opportunity to have, a reasonable standard of health or development without services from a local authority; or
  • unlikely to progress in terms of health or development; or
  • unlikely to progress in terms of health or development, without services from a local authority

Local councils must identify the extent of need in their area and make decisions about levels of service they provide.

Chronically Sick And Disabled Persons Act 1970

This act places a duty upon local authorities to investigate the level of need for services for people with disability who live in their area. This includes the assessment and provision of practical assistance in the home, help with adaptations to property, leisure, and assistance with meals and a telephone.

The apparent meaning of this act has been modified by decisions of the courts. Reference should therefore also be made to the relevant case law summaries.

Carers And Disabled Children Act 2000

Under the Carers and Disabled Children Act 2000, carers aged 16 or over who provide a regular and substantial amount of care for someone aged 18 or over have the right to an assessment of their needs as a carer.

If there is more than one carer providing regular care in your household, you are both entitled to an assessment. Very occasionally, a 16 or 17 year old who cares for someone for a limited period may be entitled to an assessment. The local council has a responsibility to make sure a young carer’s own well-being is looked after and that they receive the necessary support.

If you have parental responsibility for a disabled child, your needs as a carer will be assessed as part of a family needs assessment. You have the right to a family needs assessment under The Children Act 1989. You do not need to be the mother or father of the child.

Disability Discrimination Act 1995

The Disability Discrimination Act is a piece of legislation that promotes civil rights for disabled people and protects disabled people from discrimination.

From 1 October 2010, the majority of the Equality Act 2010 will be implemented and will replace major parts of the provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act.

Equality Act 2010

This is intended to protect the rights of individuals and advance equality of opportunity for all; to update, simplify and strengthen the previous legislation; and to deliver a simple, modern and accessible framework of discrimination law which protects individuals from unfair treatment and promotes a fair and more equal society.

The provisions in the Equality Act will come into force at different times to allow time for the people and organisations affected by the new laws to prepare for them. The Government is currently considering how the different provisions will be commenced so that the Act is implemented in an effective and proportionate way. In the meantime, the Government Equalities Office continues to work on the basis of the previously announced timetable, which envisaged commencement of the Act’s core provisions in October 2010.