The government has threatened to cut funding to some English councils if they don’t do better on providing short breaks for disabled children.
The government gave money to 21 “pathfinder authorities” last year to develop best practice in provision of short breaks. All other councils were given smaller amounts of “gearing up money” and told they would only receive extra funding if they were ready to provide high quality breaks by March 2009.
But the Department for Children Schools and Families (DCSF) said 11 of these second-tier authorities could now have this funding given to other councils if they do not make enough progress.
The warning came after the campaign group Every Disabled Child Matters published a report into progress on improving short breaks.
It found “some evidence of good practice” but said there was a long way to go to reach a “consistent, sustainable service”.
The report said parent groups in pathfinder areas reported some improvements for those who knew about the service and were eligible. But while those in non-pathfinder areas remained optimistic about the programme, there were concerns about a lack of choice, information, clarity about direct payments, and support in managing direct payments.
Information about short breaks was a key area for improvement in both sets of areas, as was the application of eligibility criteria and consistency in assessments.
Brian Lamb, an EDCM board member, said work to transform short breaks was “moving in the right direction” but he called for stronger leadership.
A Department for Children, Schools and Families spokeswoman said the government was pleased the report showed most families in pathfinder areas were happy with their level of short breaks.
She added: “The vast majority of local areas have made good progress in getting ready to deliver improved services. Where a local area is not making sufficient progress and there is a risk that funding will not reach families, we will consider re-allocating this funding to others who are able to deliver this much needed service.”
In May 2007, the government’s Aiming High for Disabled Children promised £340 million from 2008-11 to transform disabled children’s services in four areas: short breaks, childcare, transition to adulthood and parents’ forums. Of this, £280 million was allocated to improving short breaks.
The government’s children’s plan last December promised an extra £90 million for short breaks, and another £340 million for disabled children was allocated through the child health strategy in February, to be spent on short breaks, community equipment, wheelchairs and palliative care, again from 2008-2011.