Thursday 29 January 2015

Should Katie pay or should the LA provide?

So apparently there's some big hoo-ha on t'internet about Katie Price and her not using her own millions to pay for her disabled son to get to school.

Actually I do know how this started, because I have watched the odd bit of Celebrity Big Brother (sssh, don't tell anyone!) and have even been known to use the #CBB hashtag. I saw the clip on TV where Katie Hopkins told Katie Price she thought she should pay for her son's transport herself, because she could afford it. At the time, Katie Price reacted very well I thought, and didn't rise to the uneducated opinions of the other Katie. She made a good point (in not so many words), that her career is not a stable one, and whilst she may have made a lot of money to date, there's no guarantee that will carry on for ever. Just the same as it is for everyone.

I'm not usually one to jump on a social media bandwagon, but this issue does of course fall very close to my own heart.

For the past four years, I have been asking the question about where our younger girl might go to school when she reaches secondary school age (so that's at age 11 here in the UK). For all children, it's a huge culture change where the schools go from being small and welcoming, with small numbers of pupils and one main teacher per class, to large institutions with hundreds of children and several different teachers for a variety of subjects, taught in different classrooms. Phew, that makes me feel stressed even just writing that!

Luckily, I had no problem with the secondary school I attended; I'd go as far as to say that I quite liked it. I was never in one of the 'popular' or 'sporty' groups, but I guess I was lucky that I avoided any noticeable bullying and so I look back quite fondly on my school days. I so hope that our eldest girl will get on fine and feel the same way about her school. However, I already know that it would not be a good place for our girl with autism.

So we will be faced with the challenge of finding a smaller, more specialised school that is right for her (not as easy as it should be, they are few and far between). Once we have found one, we will no doubt have to battle with the Local Authority to prove that the state mainstream schools are not suitable, and that our choice is what the LA should provide/pay for. On top of that, we will then have the discussion about transport costs, and how we (family and LA) get our child to school, and who will pay for that transport. Listening to the experiences of other parents in our county, I'm fairly sure all this is likely to involve a lawyer on both sides to argue the case - and yes, don't even get me started on what a ridiculous way to spend a whole lot of money (on both sides) that will be.

It is true that the cost of caring for disabled children is higher - they need more support, more individual care and attention, and are unlikely to be able to travel alone. As parents of disabled children, should we have to work twice as many hours to earn twice as much (or more) money than the next mum just to cover these extra needs? Even if we agreed we should, the fact that we would then have to pay all that money back for specialist childcare (if it was even available or easy to arrange) kind of puts paid to the whole idea.

So should you pay if you can afford it? Surely a better discussion would be around why LAs are not providing enough suitable local education provision for disabled children in the first place? Maybe if the lawyers were not called in so readily, that money could be channelled into providing more suitable local education and the need for expensive transport would be greatly reduced. 

Our society doesn't currently means test with regards to disabled children. It also, allegedly, doesn't record all details about disabled children fully, or understand where the money is being spent, or provide suitable local provision for them. So where shall we start?

Our girl is just one little fish in a very large sea. She may swim in a different direction at times (OK, most of the time) but she is still entitled to all the help and support that every other child receives. It's a shame it always comes down to money.

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