Councils acting unlawfully against children with autism

The Disability Law Service has said that more than a quarter of English councils are acting unlawfully by discriminating against children with autism.

A report by the disability law experts found that 41 out of 149 local authorities have policies that denied families social care assessments, some of which have been labelled as ‘discriminatory and unacceptable’.

Children with autism have the right to be treated the same as other disabled children under the Equality Act. As such, local councils are legally required to assess disabled children to deliver the social care support they and their families would need - such as respite care and clubs.

However, the report found that councils were blocking assessments and would only allow them if the child had an additional disability, showed a level of challenging behaviour or had been given an official diagnosis of autism.

Sir Ed Davey, acting leader of the Liberal Democrats and a patron of the service, said that the way some families of autistic children were being treated was ‘unlawful, discriminatory and unacceptable’.

He said: “These children have only one crack at childhood and if the law and the local authorities don't support them then those precious moments will be wasted. It's vital those in charge of social care in every local authority step up to the plate, review their policies and make sure children are getting the social care needs assessments and support the law says they should."

Davey has written an open letter to councils highlighting ‘systemic and widespread discrimination against autistic children’ and, without naming the councils, has urged them to put things right.