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Ambitious about Autism is supporting the Every Child in Need campaign following the Government’s proposals to change the legal framework protecting the assessment of vulnerable children in need. All children with disabilities are legally classified as children in need.
Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove and Minister for Children & Families Tim Loughton say the proposed changes involve cutting 'red tape' and will allow local authority children's services departments more freedom to meet children's needs.
We do not regard the legal framework as red tape and are concerned, in this time of budget cuts, that local authorities may well use this as an excuse to not assess a child in need promptly.
The proposed changes have been piloted in eight local authorities and an independent evaluation of the pilot found that assessments were taking on average 44 days instead of the current seven days. The Every Child in Need campaign is also aware of many examples from the trial authorities where assessments have taken longer, often in excess of three months.
An e-petition to the Department for Education has been created for people to sign by the Every Child in Need campaign. The campaign coordinators include Steve Broach, Ambitious about Autism’s Expert Adviser.
Steve Broach, a barrister at Doughty Street Chambers, said: “Some of England’s most vulnerable children will lose out under planned changes to the child protection system. In a time of cuts, to take away minimum standards to vulnerable children and to rely on individual local authorities to get it right every time on their own is dangerous and irresponsible. To focus solely on children who are already at risk of significant harm and ignore those with lower-level needs is going to result in an explosion of child protection cases down the line.”
Caoilfhionn Gallagher, campaign co-coordinator and a barrister at Doughty Street Chambers, added: “We are particularly concerned that these changes are being introduced without proper regard to the needs of children with disabilities. The Government’s entire focus has been only on children at risk of abuse, but the changes are very wide-ranging and impact upon every disabled child in the country, and all other ‘children in need’ - a far wider category.”