Northern Ireland law centre raises alarm over service provision for disabled children and adults

Northern Ireland law centre raises alarm over service provision for disabled children and adults

Eamonn McNally

Disabled children and adults in Northern Ireland are being discriminated against because of the lack of adequate service provision to meet their needs, the Children’s Law Centre (CLC) has warned.

In a joint statement with the National Autistic Society NI, the two charities said they have witnessed a sharp increase in the number of people, particularly children, who have lost access to vital services in the past number of years.

They said long-standing systemic failings had been worsened by the response to the pandemic and many disabled children and adults are still living isolated, restricted lives and having their freedoms and autonomy severely curtailed.

Eamonn McNally, mental health solicitor for the Children’s Law Centre, said: “We should be horrified and ashamed at the treatment of disabled children with complex needs. What some young people, as well as their parents and carers, are having to go through is nothing short of a disgrace in a modern society. How can they expect to live their lives without access to the services that make that possible?

“We know from recent reports that the health and well-being of disabled people has not improved as restrictions have lifted, and that their access to health services continues to remain limited. This is reflected in our everyday casework at CLC, which has grown in both size and complexity.

“Respite services have been crippled for many years and the impact of the pandemic has exposed the inequalities for disabled children and adults. But we can’t hide behind the pandemic or make excuses, these failings have long been apparent.

“Disabled children have a wide range of legal rights and those rights include access to services that allow them to live a full and dignified life, as well as services to support carers by providing them with the help they need to maintain care for their loved ones within the family home.

“The failure to provide adequate services to children with complex needs and their families breaches a range of fundamental human rights.”

CLC and National Autistic Society NI will tonight co-host a hustings titled “Forgotten Voices” ahead of the Northern Ireland Assembly elections in May.

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