Crippen discovers restrictions to disabled youngster’s right to education to remain

It appears that the government is to abandon measures that ran “a coach and horses” through the right to social care during the pandemic. However, similar restrictions imposed on disabled young people’s right to education are set to remain.

The measures were all part of the government’s emergency Coronavirus Act, which became law a year ago today, on 25 March 2020, and will remain in place for at least two years from March 2020, unless suspended or repealed by ministers.

Recently, more than 20 disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) wrote to health and social care secretary Matt Hancock to ask him to suspend the so-called “Care Act easements”.

These measures have allowed councils to suspend their legal duty to carry out detailed assessments of disabled people’s care and support needs, and their legal duty to meet all eligible care and support needs.

As reported in Disability News Service (DNS) Ministers said earlier this week that they wanted to end the Care Act easements … however, there is no mention in the review document or a government press release of measures – also introduced through the Coronavirus Act – that have provided powers to restrict disabled children’s rights to education over the last year.

These measures gave the education secretary the power to amend parts of the Children and Families Act (CFA) 2014 so that a local council only had to use “reasonable endeavours” to provide the education, health and social care needs named in a disabled pupil’s education health and care (EHC) plan. They also gave the education secretary the power to amend CFA so that a school would no longer have a duty to admit a disabled child if that school was named in the child’s EHC plan.

Simone Aspis, policy and campaigns coordinator of the The Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE), said yesterday that the government’s decision to keep the education powers but scrap the Care Act easements was “absolutely inconsistent”, and she called on Williamson to “do the right thing and remove the CFA easements immediately”.

She said the last year had been “dire” for many disabled children and young people and their families because they have not been receiving the support they need to access mainstream education, because of both the pandemic and the CFA easements. We are hearing that whilst those measures may not be put in place, local authorities are still getting the message that they are able to depart from their duties by not arranging provision.

“It is very serious in terms of the impact. It could end up with more and more children being out of school, being denied access to education and falling behind in the progress they could be making, and not having the same opportunities. We could be finding ourselves with a lost generation of disabled people as a result of this.”

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

A family comprising of a young white couple with a young child are standing in the desert wearing ragged clothing. Alongside of them is a large cactus with a sign on it saying, education desert. A large cow skull is set in the sand at their feet and the sun is beating down on them creating long shadows. Also, at their feet is a torn up document that reads EHC Plan. In the distance are two people. One is an Asian man dressed in a suite, the other a white woman in similar clothing. The woman is holding a placard that reads ‘your right to an education’. Another sign is being held by the man that reads ‘education secretary’. The air is also moving around these two figures. The young man is saying to his partner: “They’re just a mirage I’m afraid!”

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