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Raising awareness of families with disabled children

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26 April 2012
disabled children Lewisham Parent & Carer’s Forum was set up to provide support for parents of children with disabilities, special educational and additional needs. This week I was delighted to speak at their first Raising Awareness Day.

While I am not someone that has ever had to care for a child with a disability, I have a huge amount of respect for what people who have these caring responsibilities do. During my time as an MP I have met with many carers who have found real difficulties getting the support they need. I have heard of the challenges they face, whether it be in the education system, child care or health services as they push for the right diagnosis.

Recent research by Contact a Family found that over half of families with children with additional needs struggle with their access to key services, and many feel they are not listened to by professionals. Children with disabilities are more likely to live in poverty, and clearly there are challenges ahead as the Welfare Reform Bill brings uncertainty to the financial support these families receive. In particular, the eligibility for contributory Employment and Support Allowance among young disabled children and the changes in universal credit are a huge worry.

Ultimately, parents of children with additional needs are like any other parent. They want the same things for their children – that they are healthy, happy and fulfil their potential. This summer brings the Paralympic Games to London, where our city will celebrate people with disabilities and their achievements. The focus will be positive, on abilities and what people are capable of, rather than what they can’t do. I am certainly looking forward to it.

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