THERE are now 13 – count them – MPs jostling to be our next Prime Minister, so there should be plenty of scope for smart policy pledges over the coming days and weeks.
High on the to-do list for any future PM must be plugging the £434million shortfall needed to support disabled children and their families — as demanded by The Sun in its brilliant Give It Back campaign.
6 Vickey and her son Ollie don’t need your pity – they need your help, writes Amanda BattenCredit: Chris Balcombe – The Sun
Making this relatively small investment will mean huge savings for the Treasury and the NHS in the future.
It will also clearly prove we value our most vulnerable children, and the families who love them — which is surely how any decent politician seeks to be judged.
These include families like that of Vickey Lewis, whose moving story was told in yesterday’s Sun.
She is mum to seven-year-old Ollie, who suffers from a rare condition where he regularly stops breathing.
Vickey and husband Adrian go to bed every night not knowing if their son will still be alive in the morning. But the family does not get the support it needs.
WHY ‘GIVE IT BACK’ NEEDS YOUR HELP
6 Vickey and husband Adrian go to bed every night not knowing whether their son will still be alive in the morningCredit: Chris Balcombe – The Sun
EXHAUSTED AND FRUSTRATED
Thousands of kind-hearted Sun readers have already signed Vickey’s letter to Chancellor Philip Hammond demanding he properly funds services — such as respite and overnight support — for parents with disabled children.
We hope more of you will show your backing by signing the letter today, because the Lewis family are not an isolated case.
Mums and dads up and down the country feel unable to look after their disabled children adequately because they are so exhausted — and they are frustrated at being let down by a system that is meant to help them.
When we surveyed parents, just four per cent said they felt they had the support to safely care for their child.
More than half have been treated by a GP for depression, anxiety or stress.
6Credit: Chris Balcombe – The Sun
Ollie’s grandad Dave helps out when he can, but the family are far from an isolated case – they need your help
WHERE TO GET HELPContact A Family Support And Advice, 0808 808 3555
Independent Provider of Special Education Advice (IPSEA) – for specialist legal advice
Newlife – a charity that provides help with equipment
GOV.UK – to understand your child’s entitlements
National Autistic SocietyyoungSibs – great advice for brothers and sisters of a disabled child
And a huge 55 per cent of children have gone without therapies, such as physio and speech and language help, meant to improve their lives.
This lack of support starts right from diagnosis — with parents being left alone to come to terms with devastating news.
They are then left to care for children with complex needs — often through the night — for months or years without any help or respite.
This care is often emotional and stressful, and sometimes physical and back-breaking, too.
At my charity, Contact — which works with families of disabled children — we hear all the time from those who have to fight for even the most basic provision.
6 Vickey Kowal has written an open letter to the Government asking for more funding for families with disabled children
GIVE IT BACKWhy we demand the Government helps families with disabled kids:
Disabled children and their families are desperately struggling because of a lack of support.
We want the Government to reinstate the £434m of funding it has cut from early intervention services – such as respite care and vital equipment.
It is time for the Government to Give It Back.
The number of disabled children in the UK has risen to nearly 1 million over the past 10 years – up by a third.
But funding and support has been cut.
Families with some of the most vulnerable children in the country are struggling to cope.
That’s why we’re working with the Disabled Children’s Partnership to help them.
Together we can make a real difference and hugely improve the lives of disabled children and their families.
We want you to share your stories, email us on firstname.lastname@example.org
Please sign Ollie’s letter to put pressure on the Government to act now.
These families are morally — and legally — entitled to help from local authorities, but it is just not forthcoming.
It does not need to be like this. All the families want is a little amount of support to enable them to care safely for their child at home.
They want a chance to go shopping, a moment to catch up on sleep or have a bath, or time to spend with their other children.
This is not about pity or sympathy for disabled children.
The families we work with cherish every day spent with their children, who bring real joy and have so much to offer. Instead, we are calling on the Government to help tackle the problem of the lack of support they are given.
WANT AN ORDINARY LIFE
I have worked in the field of disability for 15 years, so I know that services have never been perfect.
But cuts to budgets, combined with a 33 per cent increase in the number of children classed as disabled over the past decade, means we have reached a critical point — one where we need to decide what kind of country we want to be.
We are talking about some of the most vulnerable children in society, and also children who have the potential to contribute a lot.
This is not a campaign based purely on emotion, compassion or wanting to do the right thing, although those are all important.
There is a hard-headed economic case here, too. Without putting funding back into services for disabled children, we can guarantee the taxpayer will be faced with a bigger bill in the long-term.
6 Families such as Vickey’s are morally and legally entitled to help from local authoritiesCredit: Chris Balcombe – The Sun
Is your family affected by the cuts to funding? Tell us your story. Email: email@example.com
That is because when families break down, children can end up in care or needing expensive crisis intervention from local councils or the NHS.
Our families are amazing. When the chips are down, people can be remarkable.
But most do not want to be amazing, or superhuman — they want an ordinary life.
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As Sun readers, you can give families up and down the country a real shot at that.
Sign Vickey’s letter using this link, and ask which of our potential leaders will be first to agree to Give It Back.
Amanda Batten is chair of the Disabled Children’s Partnership, a coalition of 60 leading charities, and CEO of Contact.
Charities, MPs and families support The Sun’s Give It Back campaignHERE’S what they had to say:Richard Kramer, Chief Executive of Sense
“This lack of support is putting overwhelming pressure on disabled children and their families. We need government to urgently address this issue or it will just continue to be a never ending cycle of disadvantage for families with disabled children.”
Jane Harris, Director of External Affairs at the National Autistic Society
“We want as many people as possible to sign the open letter calling on the Government to give back the millions that have been cut from support for disabled children. Thanks to The Sun and The Sun readers for getting behind this important campaign.”
Dr Hilary Cass OBE, Chair of BACD
“Every professional working in the field of childhood disability will be grateful to The Sun for launching the Give it Back campaign.”
Naseem Waker, mum of Leila, seven
“The Give It Back campaign shows the stark reality of a very complex situation. I am delighted a paper with the clout of The Sun has taken up the cause.”
Dan White, writer and broadcaster, dad of Emily, 12
“It’s 2019 and parents and children in our community are like ghosts to society. We live amongst you, breathe your air, look at the same stars, but you do not know us. Today, you must finally make the country aware.”
Tracy Williams, mum of Harry
“This campaign can transform the lives of nearly a million families with disabled children. Thanks so much to the Sun for bringing our stories to light.”
Charity Give It Back campaign calls for more funding for families with disabled kids