Yet another report, yet another appeal to government. The money could have been better spent
I am sure this report comes from concern, commitment and hard work by many good people in the ‘over 100 organisations in the Disabled Children’s Partnership’ (England? UK?), but will it have any impact on the present government? Probably not. Even if the next government responds positively, any reforms will not bed in before today’s infants are grown up.
One of the major appeals in the report is for ‘improved support within a truly integrated support system’ but the Disabled Children’s Partnership is itself only ‘...campaigning for improved health and social care...’ with no mention of education. How can this be?
Babies and infants who have significant challenges to their development and learning and their families frequently have the worst possible start in life with chaotic and fragmented support, lack of information and, often, absence of relevant support from their local education service. But, my reading of the report does not reflect or represent the importance of babyhood and the pre-school years. This is thoroughly mystifying.
I have seen so many reports like this in recent decades but infants, children and young people with disabilities are still failed and forgotten. In political terms, many of their families can be justifiably described as belonging to an oppressed minority group – isolated, impoverished and forgotten.
Of course, I have to offer positive suggestions now that I have, more or less, discounted ‘Failed and Forgotten’ as a catalyst for change. My starting point is that the one hundred or so big and small organisation in the Disabled Children’s Partnership share a wealth of valuable resources we can use.
The big ones have expensive and well-equipped offices in city centres with well-paid chief execs and senior managers. There are expense accounts for travel and accommodation. There are design and printing departments, multiple computers, desk printers, international connectivity and telephones. They have close and regular contacts with ministers, politicians and top civil servants in education, health and social care ministries. Campaigners in most other countries would be envious of all these rich resources and would surely know how to put them to better use!
Some of the smaller organisation in the Partnership will not be so well-endowed but will have closer contact with children and families, might be run by parents and family members (some of whom will be disabled), will surely have people who are furious about present provision, who are truly passionate about change and ready to fight for it ̶ the same sort of intense on-going fight that is waged by black people against race prejudice and women against male dominance.
There is no suggestion of any sort of fight in this Disabled Children’s Partnership report as far as I can see. It feels like a bureaucratic box-ticking exercise in which ‘people in suits’ are gently appealing to other ‘people in suits’ – taking care not to frighten them.
(I can’t help wondering if the meetings to prepare the report had a mix of two sorts of people: those with salaries and expenses; those without salaries and expenses but wanting to contribute to the discussions for the benefit of others. Many of these would be impoverished parents.)
Readers will have guessed my suggestion by now. It is simply that the big organisations make a lot of their rich resources available to parents and other family members who are ready to fight and let them decide how the resources are used.
There are constraints to be taken into account:
- Parents and other family members will have limits to their time and energy. That is why they need the person-power and resources the big organisations are holding on to.
- Big organisation will endanger their government grants if they seem to be embarking on ‘political’ activity and will not then be able to pay large salaries. That is why they need the vision and energy of parents and other family members who do not have government grants and high salaries to protect.
My understanding is that some of the big well-established organisations are now part of the establishment and therefore unable to conceive radical change. I could have used ‘revolutionary’ instead of ‘radical’. We are not going to have effective integrated child and family support from conception to adulthood without a revolution in what we can imagine, how we think, what we do and how we do it. Politely asking the government for favours is futile.
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