Health service must '˜radically rethink' provisions for disabled children

A CHARITY that has spent over £1m providing equipment for disabled children across Yorkshire says health services need to 'radically rethink' how they treat disabled youngsters.

Austin Atkinson

Newlife, the Charity for Disabled Children, has had to step in to provide equipment for more than 1,500 children over the last decade - spending more in Yorkshire than in the whole of Scotland or Wales.

The charity says the figures indicate a “serious problem” with the statutory provision of disability equipment for children in the country.

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It currently has applications for 49 children in Yorkshire who are in desperate need of equipment and must raise £53,540 to help them all.

Austin Atkinson, from Wakefield, is just one of the children going without. The 12-year-old has a rare type of Muscular Dystrophy that effects anything he does that requires an element of strength. Although he can take a few steps using a walking frame, he relies on his wheelchair to get about – without it he wouldn’t be able to do something as simple as go to school.

He has outgrown his wheelchair but the replacement offered by Wakefield Council is difficult for even an adult to push, let alone for Austin to move by himself, so the family have turned to Newlife for help raising the £2,588 needed to get him the right wheelchair for his needs.

Dad, Richard, said: “Not having the right equipment, at the right time is holding disabled children back and not allowing them to reach their full potential. Austin isn’t asking anything outlandish – this is something that he needs in order to be able to live his day-to-day life and to succeed at being his best self.”

Newlife’s chief executive, Sheila Brown, said the figures show there is something “fundamentally wrong” in the region.

She said: “It’s an outrage they have to battle for even the basic help and equipment which is why we’ll be writing to every statutory service across Yorkshire asking them to review their policies on the provision of equipment for disabled children.”

Consultant nurse at Newlife, Karen Dobson, said: “I know it’s hard to believe but the reality is that many of these children have already been refused essential equipment by their local health services.”

NHS England were approached for comment.