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NO SUMMER FUN FOR DISABLED CHILDREN

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Disabled children and their brothers and sisters suffer an acute lack of the summer holiday activities that other f...
Disabled children and their brothers and sisters suffer an acute lack of the summer holiday activities that other families take for granted, says a new report from Barnardo's. The report, Postcards from home, says that local leisure facilities, holiday playschemes and sports activities often exclude disabled children because of health and safety fears, lack of funding and inaccessible venues.

'At a time of year when most families enjoy getting out and doing things together, families with disabled children are missing out,' said one of the report's authors, Neera Sharma. 'Disabled children need organised activities even more than other children, as most cannot just go out to play during the holidays.'

Families with disabled children face additional pressure in the summer, as they are cut off from the term-time support of school and community-based services. Many also have other children whose needs must be met. The parents interviewed all reported having less money in the summer holidays through having to take unpaid leave from work and paying for specialist playschemes. Few were expecting to have a holiday away from home, both for financial reasons and because of the difficulty of finding accessible accommodation.

The main problem is a shortage of public cash and specialist staff to support disabled children. The report estimates that a holiday scheme which costs£21 for children on a 1 adult to 5 children ratio, costs£66 for a child who needs one to one care. Local authority grants do not cover this extra cost, leaving parents to make up the shortfall, or forcing a 'rationing' of provision.

Jake, aged 6, has autistic spectrum disorder. Last year he was allocated just two days of the entire summer holiday on a special needs playscheme. This limits what the rest of the family can do too, as his mother finds going out with three children almost impossible, as Jake needs one-to-one attention.

Jake's sister Nikki, aged 8, said: 'We can't go to the cinema because Jake would start walking around and shouting. I would like to go to American Adventure [theme park]. We can't go, Jake wouldn't like the rides and when he gets stressed we have to go home.'

Prejudice also affects families' enjoyment when they do go out. Families regularly encounter negative and unhelpful attitudes from leisure services staff and the general public. Karen, who has two disabled children, finds such attitudes very upsetting: 'The general public aren't aware of children with these problemspeople aren't tolerant.'

The report also highlights the impact on parents of caring for more than one disabled child during the holidays. Jane looks after her son Tim and daughter Kate, both of whom have cerebral palsy, and are wheelchair users, so that it is impossible to take them out together. Tim's playscheme allocation this year is just five days. Jane says: 'It is a long break and [Tim] gets fed up. You need to organise an entire day of activities, he can't just go out and 'hang out' with his friends like other fourteen year olds.'

Barnardo's fears that cuts to the Children's Fund and changes to Quality Protects funding will further limit the development of inclusive provision over the next two years. The charity is calling for more, guaranteed funding to deliver inclusive facilities and activities for disabled and non-disabled young people, and an increased number of trained, specialised staff across a wide range of leisure and holiday facilities.

Notes:

1. Postcards from home: the experience of disabled children in the school holidays, by Neera Sharma and Rachel Dowling, is available through Barnardo's website on http://www.barnardos.org.uk/newsandevents/media/postcards.jsp

2. Barnardo's runs more than 50 community-based services for disabled children and their families in the UK

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