The Breaks for Carers of Disabled Children Regulations (2011)
The Breaks for Carers of Disabled Children Regulations oblige local authorities to provide a range of services to help carers of disabled children continue to provide care or to provide care more effectively by enabling them to take short breaks from their caring responsibilities.
The regulations oblige local authorities to consider the needs of carers who would be able to provide care more effectively if they were able to take breaks from caring in order to undertake education, training or regular leisure activities, to meet the needs of other children in their family more effectively or to carry out the day-to-day running of their household. They also oblige local authorities to provide a range of services including day care, overnight care, educational or leisure activities for disabled children and services to assist carers in the evenings, at weekends and during school holidays. Lewisham Council fulfils this obligation by providing universal, targeted and specialist services that enable carers of disabled children to take short breaks from their caring responsibilities.
The regulations do not oblige local authorities to provide these services to all carers of disabled children and allow the Council to take into account available resources when deciding the eligibility for these services.
The regulations also oblige local authorities to produce a short breaks services statement setting out the range of local services that enable parents or carers to take a break from their caring responsibilities, any eligibility criteria for these services and how these services have been designed to meet the needs of local carers. Lewisham Council has fulfilled this obligation by producing these webpages.
The Children Act obliges local authorities to provide a range of social care services to support children in need. These services might include domiciliary care to help meet personal care needs or equipment to help children function in the community. This Act also requires local authorities to assess and prioritise the way they meet the needs of children in their area and permits local authorities to use eligibility criteria to take into account available resources when deciding whether to provide services to a child in need. As such, although all this Act defines all disabled children as children in need, it does not oblige local authorities to provide services to all disabled children. In relation to short breaks, Lewisham Council fulfils this obligation by providing specialist short break services.
This Act places a duty on local authorities to provide social care services to disabled adults and children. Like the Children Act 1989, this Act permits local authorities to use fair and rational eligibility criteria and to take into account available resources when deciding whether or not to provide services to a disabled person. According to the Act, once a local authority has assessed the needs of a disabled child and has decided that the it must provide services to meet that child’s needs, it has a duty to provide these services and cannot apply any further eligibility criteria.
Both the DDA and the Equalities Act oblige local authorities not to discriminate against disabled people by treating them less favourably than non-disabled people or by failing to make reasonable adjustments so that disabled people can access the same services as non-disabled people. Both acts also oblige local authorities to promote equality when developing strategies and policies and making decisions by paying regard to eliminating discrimination, promoting equality of opportunity and encouraging disabled people to participate in public life. Lewisham Council fulfils these obligations in relation to short breaks by making reasonable adjustments that enable disabled children to access the universal services that enable parents or carers to take a break from their caring responsibilities. Where a child’s additional needs are so great that reasonable adjustments can’t be made, Lewisham Council fulfils its obligations by providing targeted short break services.
The Carers (Equal Opportunities) Act obliges local authorities to provide a range of services to support carers, including those who care disabled children. This Act does not oblige local authorities to provide services to all carers in the area although it does give all carers the right to have a carers’ assessment. Carers’ assessments are conducted by local authorities to identify the additional needs that carers may have and the types of services that might meet them. One of the ways that Lewisham Council supports carers of disabled children is by enabling them to take short breaks from their caring responsibilities through universal, targeted and specialist short break services. Lewisham Council uses the Family Support Assessment to assess the needs of carers of disabled children.
The Childcare Act obliges local authorities to assess and ensure the sufficient provision of affordable childcare for working families, including those with disabled children. This does not mean that local authorities must provide childcare to families with disabled children, or that local authorities must provide free or discounted childcare to disabled children. It does mean that local authorities must make sure that affordable childcare is available to working families with disabled children in the area.