Disabled children in Trafford and Plymouth could soon be enjoying a much better choice of short breaks and accessible activities following the launch of a pilot project to get parents to join forces.
The disability charity is running a Department for Education-funded pilot where parents of disabled children are supported to pool personal budgets from the council to jointly buy short breaks and other leisure and recreational activities such as clubs, sports and visits to the park, horse riding and the cinema.
The hope is that the two-year, £702,000 pilot, will see parents work out where the gaps are, and then plug those gaps, and in doing so stimulate the local markets so that provision better meets their needs.
Trafford and Plymouth are the only two pilot areas in the UK where this approach is being tested.
Scope is now encouraging local families who receive or are eligible for a personal budget to get involved in the pilot scheme. The charity will then support parents to come together and guide them through the pooling of their budgets. Scope is currently working with parents to develop an online forum, which is due to go live in September.
Living with a disabled child
Living with and caring for a disabled child can place enormous strain on families. One of the ways of coping with and managing that stress is to provide the child with a short break away from the family. This gives parents to chance to recharge their batteries and children the opportunity to do activities or therapies they would not ordinarily be able to do at home or within a family environment.
A short break could be a session at a club or sports centre, and activity, and if a child’s needs are more complex a day or night at a specialist residential home.
The aim of the pilot is to get more and better targeted support to children, and that in turn will improve their health and wellbeing and the resilience of the whole family.
Jim Wagg, from Trafford who has an autistic son and is involved in the pilot, said: “The first thing that any parent of a disabled child will tell you is that it isn’t easy. You’re constantly searching for activities they will enjoy and which give you a break. But too many services are one size fits all. Often they’re nearly right, but not right enough. That can be frustrating.
“Personal budgets, in theory, should ally my parental knowledge to professional expertise. As an individual parent with a personal budget, I have limited clout, but the idea of taking elements of several personal budgets, where there is a common interest in a service, or potential service, and seeing if the collective purchasing power can be a force for change or innovation, has to be worth exploring. Using individual budgets to create collective financial muscle could be a way to maximise the impact of personal budgets. I like the idea in principle, but we are in uncharted waters here.”
Clive Parry, who is overseeing the pilot for Scope, said: “It can be really tough being a parent of a disabled child. We regularly hear about the struggles parents go through to get the right support or find accessible activities or short breaks.
“Parents know best what type of services they need. This project is tapping into that experience like never before. By giving families the means to influence and stimulate local markets, they can be made more responsive to parent’s needs. Above all we hope that by buying services together parents will get more targeted support for their children, and that in turn will improve their health and wellbeing and the resilience of the whole family.”
Executive Councillor Linda Blackburn at Trafford Council, said: “This is a fantastic initiative and I’m delighted that Trafford Council has been selected to be part of the pilot scheme. I’m confident it will be a huge benefit to both parents and children and will greatly improve their quality of life.”
Councillor Nicky Williams, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People at Plymouth Council, said: “Who better to decide what services and activities are best for children with disabilities than their parents? It is fantastic that we now have the opportunity through this unique national pilot to work with Scope and families in Plymouth to help parents pool their resources to make their money go further. This will mean a better choice of activities for children with disabilities, who will be able to experience new things and have fun with their friends, whilst their parents get a break from caring. It’s a great step towards giving children with disabilities the same opportunities as other children their age through services tailored specifically to meet their needs and wants.”
Scope works with disabled people, of all ages, and their families, across England and Wales. We offer practical, everyday support and deliver campaigns that can change lives. Our vision is a world where disabled people have the same opportunities as everyone else. Together we can create a better society. www.scope.org.uk