The Legal Entitlements of Children and Young People who have Disabilities in the Uk.
In the Uk there are many policies and laws that aim to ensure that children and young people who have disabilities or special needs have their needs met and are treated equally to their typically developing peers. The term policy refers to sets of decisions that have been made in order to combat or solve a problem or serve some purpose within society, such as providing services that do not already exist but are needed. Laws are rules that must be obeyed by all citizens, groups, companies, organizations and institutions. Laws are enforced by the police and other members of the judicial system and breaking them can result in punishments including fines, loss of privileges or a prison sentence.
Legislation that aims to help children and young people with disabilities or special needs can be specific to this cause, such as the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Act 2000 and the Disabilities Discrimination Act or many be part of larger policies and laws that cover many areas such as The Early Years Foundation Stage (2008) or The United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child. Together these help to ensure that children and young people are given the best chances of reaching their full potential regardless of disabilities and differences. They also help to protect against discrimination based on them having a disability or extra needs.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child
The Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) was developed by UNICEF and has been ratified by almost all the countries in the world. The convention consists of 41 sections, referred to as articles, which cover the various rights and needs of children and young people under the age of 18. Article 23 of the UNCRC refers to the rights of children and young people who have disabilities and states that:
“If you are disabled, either mentally or physically, you have the right to special care and education”
The Children's Act 2004
The Children’s Act is intended to improve child’s lives between the ages of birth – 19 years of age. It covers many areas of life and services that may be accessed by children or young people and also contains detailed information regarding services for those who have additional needs. For example section 11 of The Children’s Act imposes a duty on relevant agencies to ensure that they consider the need to safeguard children and young people and promote their welfare. This includes giving priority to children that their work with and ensuring children are safe and able to carry out their normal everyday functions.
Every Child Matters Change for Children 2004
This initiative set up by the government is considered to be one of the most important pieces of policy and developmental programmes in place. It covers all children and young people up until the age of 19 unless they have a disability, in which case they are protected under this act until they are 24. Every Child Matters aims to ensure that all children can grow up healthy and safe, make a positive contribution and achieve economic well-being. This policy also contains information on delegation of funds for special educational needs, information on reasonable adjustments to allow for disabilities and support sheets and information regarding the Disability Discrimination Act.
The Human Rights Act 1998
The Human Rights Act gives further legal effect within the Uk to the rights contained in the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (also known as the European Convention on Human Rights). This act makes it possible to go to a Uk court when a breach of the convention occurs rather than having to apply to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. With regards to special needs and disability, The Human Rights Act gives rights such as:
- The right to benefit from any measures that enable a person to enjoy the highest standard of health possible.
- Disabled persons have the right to independence, social integration and participation in the life of the community.
- Everybody has the right to protection against poverty and social exclusion.
Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2000 (SENDA)
This act related to education and the bodies that provide education such as nurseries, schools, colleges and universities. Under this act local authorities have a legal responsibility to ensure that disabled learners are not treated any less favourably than others because of their disability or additional needs. The Special Educational Needs and Disability Act also states that local authorities and education establishments should provide reasonable adjustments for any student who has a disabilities to enable them to achieve their full potential.
Disability Discrimination Act 2005 (DDA)
This legislation enhanced the previous Disability Discrimination Act of 1995). It placed a duty on all public bodies, such as local councils, universities and hospitals and the public sector to promote disability equality. Key pubic bodies are required to produce Disability Equality Schemes and action plans. Annual reports are required on both to see what outcomes and improvements they have achieved. The amendments to the DDA included:
- From 1995 the DDA would cover people who have HIV, cancer or multiple sclerosis from the point of diagnosis.
- Made third party publishers such as newspapers liable for publishing discriminatory advertisements.
- Made it unlawful for private clubs with 25 or more members to treat disabled people less favourably.
- Placed a duty on public authorities to promote equal opportunity for disabled people.
- Stated that public transport vehicles should comply with accessibility regulations by 2020.
The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS)
The Early Years Foundation stage (EYFS) is the statutory framework for The Early Years Foundation Stage. It sets out the standards for learning, development and the care of children from birth to five years. The EYFS provides for equality of opportunity and anti-discriminatory practice and states that:
“Every child is included and not disadvantaged because of ethnicity, culture or religion, home language, family background, learning difficulties or disabilities, gender or ability.”
© 2013 Claire