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Lawyers And Campaigners Warn Thousands Of Disabled People Could Be Missing Out On Crucial Support

Accessing Vital Services And Key Advice ‘Should Not be A Battle,’ Say Experts


By Suzanne Rutter

Thousands of parents and carers who are missing out on crucial services for their disabled children and family members because of a lack of support and guidance were today given a boost by a team of expert lawyers and campaigners who are campaigning for better access to services.

Specialist health and social welfare lawyers from Irwin Mitchell say that as well as a lack of support and guidance from local authorities, some of the most vulnerable people in society would have to battle without specialist support if the Government’s proposed cuts to Legal Aid funding continue.

The national law firm and Rosa Monckton, a presenter of three campaigning BBC documentaries, co-hosted the event called Right to Care?, in the Jubilee Room at the House of Commons to hear first-hand the issues and problems facing 50 parents and carers as they battle to get the support they need.

Attendees heard a passionate call for action from Rosa Monckton, in which she stated that there needs to be “realism” rather than “idealism” in relation to the provision of support to young people with learning disabilities.

At the event Alex Rook, from law firm Irwin Mitchell’s London office, launched a series of special guides about accessing services for disabled children and adults and urged doctors’ surgeries and local health authorities across the country to ensure the simple but informative documents are easily available so that families know their rights even when they are unable to access a lawyer.

Esher McVey, Minister for Disabled People, Edward Timpson, and Minister for Children and Families, were guest speakers at the event, and MP’s called for better access to education and employment for people with learning disabilities speaking of the benefits of independence, choice and control. But Anne Maguire MP said there also needed to be a realistic assessment of individuals needs.

Alex Rook said: “We represent the families of many children, young people and adults who are affected by disabilities or learning difficulties and see first-hand how incredibly difficult it can be to access the services and support networks offered by local councils and health authorities which can make a massive difference to people’s quality of life.

“However, we also have a wealth of experience at Irwin Mitchell and links to some fabulous organisations and charities which provide a great source of information and practical advice.

“We strongly believe that, despite Government cuts to services and legal aid funding, and a lack of resources and staff available to care for people with disabilities, families and carers should not have to battle to get the help they need and justice they deserve and are entitled to.

“The seminar is just the springboard for us to help empower families and carers by providing them with links to carers, specialist education, access to rehabilitation or support groups.

“The feedback we received was really positive and we hope our information documents will become much more widely available in doctors’ surgeries and public buildings to ensure those who are most vulnerable can get the support and care they are entitled to.”

Speakers at the event also included Daffyd Williams, who set up an organisation called Small Opportunities to help adults with learning difficulties gain employment, and Jane Raca, who discussed her experience of trying to access care and support for her brain damaged son James. Sue Prince also talked about the ordeal she went through getting her daughter Gemma diagnosed with severe learning difficulties before she was murdered aged 27 in 2010.

The documents compiled by Irwin Mitchell provide information about the Mental Capacity Act 2005 and the role of the Court of Protection, which applies to people aged 16 or above who do not have the mental capacity to make decisions for themselves.

Families of children and carers of adults suffering from special educational needs, such as dyslexia, Asperger’s syndrome, mental health issues or an acquired brain injury, have also been provided with information about the Draft Children and Families Bill 2013, which is due to be formally introduced in September 2014.

The precise changes are still being considered by the Government but the plan is for it to help those who are most vulnerable get the support and care they are entitled to.

The information from Irwin Mitchell also sets out advice about how to access services through the health service’s new Clinical Commissioning Groups, which have replaced Primary Care Trusts.

For more information about Irwin Mitchell’s expertise about Disability Law.