Are Children with Learning Disabilities Really ‘Children First’? A Needs and Outcome Evaluation of Policy.

Clibbens, J. and Sheppard, M. (2007) Are Children with Learning Disabilities Really ‘Children First’? A Needs and Outcome Evaluation of Policy. Social and Public Policy Review, 1 (2). ISSN 1752-704X

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In recent years a succession of legislative and policy initiatives has emphasised the importance of regarding children with disabilities in general (and hence those with learning disability in particular) as ‘children first’, to be treated on an equal footing with other children in need. There has also been an emphasis on supporting carers and multi agency work. However, within all this local authorities retain a significant role in and of themselves. Despite the (apparently) best intentions of policy makers, feedback from service users has been overwhelmingly negative, particularly in relation to local authority provision. This article seeks to test out the key policy objective of treating children with (learning) disabilities as ‘children first’, providing them with equality of treatment based on assessment of need. It seeks to do so also, by testing out their actual need for support by examining the outcome at six months for families that sought that support. This article is based on the analysis of referrals made to a local authority’s children’s services, where, however, intervention was limited to assessment, because they did not reach thresholds for allocation. It shows that families with children with disabilities had far higher problems and difficulties than other families refused allocation – and hence were not being treated on an equal footing to other families in need. However, it also shows that they experienced significantly more positive outcomes at six month follow up than other families. This suggests a far more complex situation than is generally indicated in the literature, showing that evaluation of provision (including whether local authorities are indeed being neglectful of families with children with learning disabilities) depends on the principles on which it is provided. However, it also indicates that policy documents, and even the discourses used by government, are misleading and that there is a need to be honest and open about both what is happening and what is possible.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: C800 Psychology
L400 Social Policy
L500 Social Work
Divisions: Faculty of Business, Law and Social Sciences > School of Social Sciences > Dept. Psychology
UoA Collections > REF2021 UoA 04: Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience
Depositing User: John Clibbens
Date Deposited: 05 Apr 2017 10:00
Last Modified: 05 Apr 2017 10:00

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