How will #Brexit affect children and young people with Disabilities?

I was going to start this piece with "As the dust settles after the #Brexit vote...",  but every day the dust seems to get more dense and choking as the enormity of what less than 50% of the British electorate has decided for everyone else, sinks in.

It seems like, since last Friday's shock result, many people are only now really considering what the implications will be for different industries and sectors. The answer, quite often is, 'it's too early so say'. So unlike the certainty of the #Brexit campaigners before the referendum...

I believe those in the remain camp failed to get over to people what leaving would actually mean for different sections of the population, especially those who don't realise that they do actually benefit from EU membership, without actually realising it (And I still cannot quite believe that the nastiness, racism and ugly behaviour of the Brexit campaigners did not turn off voters completely - or what this says about our nation).

What's the impact on children & young people with disabilities and their families?

I've asked some of our expert columnists what they think a post-EU United Kingdom will look like for children, young people and their families. Will there be any change and if so, what is it likely to be?

@AspieDeLaZouch says

Our SENCo, @AspieDeLaZouch thinks there are too many variables to say for certain at this stage"

Nobody knows because it depends on whether:

  1. Osborne's austerity threat post-Brexit is real or imaginary
  2. interest rates go up and what the Bank of Education does about it.

I've checked and it doesn't have any immediate impact on council services or duties in education or care. So the issue is whether the economy tanks in which case those with higher bills (e.g parents/carers of children with disabilities) will suffer.

What will happen to health and research funding?

Nigel Farage has already admitted he make a "mistake" in his claim that the NHS would benefit from an injection of £350 million. But what impact on health will leaving the EU have on our collaborations and on EU funding opportunities?

The UK Science industry had been in the remain camp, as in recent years they have been net gainers in EU funding streams. Genetic Alliance UK, the national charity of which I am a Trustee, represents around 180 genetic and rare disease patient groups. Well before the referendum, we voiced support for remaining in the European Union.

Genetic Alliance UK receives a significant portion of funding from European Union initiatives, as do many UK researchers operating in the rare disease field.  The UK is also well represented on the Expert Group on Rare Diseases, which advises the EC on issues relating to rare diseases and leaving will most likely mean we forfeit our place, and influence. In addition, the UK currently benefits from regulation such as that on data sharing, clinical trials and medicines.

Brexit and accessibility

Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, Lords peer and former Paralympian spoke out against Brexit, saying that "leaving the EU would prevent British people with disabilities from benefiting from upcoming legislation on accessibility".

She's referring to the proposed EU European Accessibility Act, with the hope of setting requirements for certain key products and services. These include cash machines, banking services and TV equipment and Baroness Grey-Thompson is concerned this will now mean Britons will miss out. Of course it's entirely possible we could have our own rules on this but being able to influence laws that would apply across the continent for disabled people travelling there would end (guess what, some of us do travel - and with our disabled children!).

Our columnist Mr BoosMum says:

Our columnist, Mr Boosmum, whose own blog, Premmeditations talks about bringing up a child with cerebral palsy and epilepsy has offered her view on what Brexit may mean for her family.

Many of my friends' children rely on medicine unlicensed in the UK and imported from Europe. They rely daily on an already strained NHS and a broken Social Care system that Farage and others have been clear will not fare better outside the EU.

These children's lives, horribly difficult though austerity has made them in the last few years, have at least until now had their rights protected and promoted by EU legislation to which their parents have had frequent recourse.

Parents of disabled children have been among the most passionate and eloquent Remain campaigners. As always, they have been among the least heard in the noisier debates about immigration and the economy. There are lots of other reasons to be apprehensive and worried about today's referendum vote. I know many parents of disabled children who are extremely scared.

The pragmatic view on Brexit - from columnist, Bren Prendergast

Our newest columnist, Bren Prendergast (whose next column will be on Access Arrangements for exams) likens Brexit to the some legislation closer to home - but agrees that it's our children with rare conditions who are likely to feel withdrawing from the EU the most.

I suppose my view on Brexit is a pragmatic one, we have what we have and now we have to work with it, like the Children & Families Act. While it is far from a forgone conclusion that we will actually leave the EU, what is in the here & now is the devaluation of the pound and the very real possibility of a recession. Those already struggling to keep their heads above water, and struggling to get the provisions that their children need, are likely to be in for a very bumpy ride. As we already know with 'austerity' measures, it is the most vulnerable that are the most exposed to cuts.

Schools & colleges need to lead the way, they need to support and model egalitarian principles, not only for kids with SEND, but for kids too. Families can be too proud to claim free school meals and ask for assistance with funding trips. Schools need to consider what funds they are asking parents to contribute to and adjust venues/arrange breakfast clubs to accommodate all. Children and young people with SEND may also be immigrants - a double whammy for them.

In essence, I'm promoting the philosophy of Reggio Emilia approach  and extending it into secondary and Further Education. Schools & colleges must do what they can to both cushion its children and young people from the effects of further austerity and promote & model good human values.

More impact is likely to be felt by children who have a rare condition. Many research projects rely on EU funds to work on discovering the genetics, causes and potential treatments for conditions which few people in any one country have but when you look further across Europe and to the wider world

Your views on #Brexit and its effect on children with disabilities?

What are your views? Did you vote out and feel children and families will benefit from being outside the European Union, or did you vote remain and are fearful about the future? Or, did you not bother to vote and are now regretting it? Tell us in the comments.

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Tania Tirraoro
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Tania Tirraoro

Founder, CEO at Special Needs Jungle
Founder of Special Needs Jungle. Parent of two sons with Asperger Syndrome. Trustee, Genetic Alliance UK.
Journalist & author of two novels and a guide to SEN statementing. PR & social media expert. Rare Disease & chronic pain patient advocate.
Tania Tirraoro
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  • Fiona Nicholson

    The effect I expect across the board is that things will stall. Civil servants may have been asked to look at something but there will be no-one at Westminster with any headspace to sign it off.

  • George Bayliss

    It is this simple… Brexit has ZERO to do with protection through law, policies or funding.

    Brexit simply is about the way we are governed and the minimums afforded across Europe only.

    Funding of schools, that’s politics & policy…

    Children & Families Act, Equality Act, Chronically Sick & Disabled Persons Act etc… that’s law, it won’t change…

    Judicial Review and tribunals… that won’t change…

    What must change if we want better from our politicians and better from our local authority is how we act as a community of advocates…

    Pages like this are a great resource, there are others… we can let other parents/carers who know less by helping them, we can, en masse, lobby our MPs, Chief Exec of LA etc… we can get help with the law from places like IPSEA and we can stand together to make sure that they… politicians and those who work for government know that we know the law, we know what they are doing and that we expect what the law states as an absolute minimum!

    Ubuntu…

    Together we are stronger…

    • Sam Scanlon

      what happens to ” Children & Families Act, Equality Act, Chronically Sick & Disabled Persons Act etc… that’s law, it won’t change… Judicial Review and tribunals” When W walk out of the ECHR ? are these things still protected ? Dec 2015 — ” Michael Gove confirmed that the long-anticipated bill of rights consultation had been put back until 2016 when he appeared before the House of Lords constitution committee.

      “My original intention was to publish the [bill of rights] consultation before Christmas,” the justice secretary told peers. “It has now been put back. I expect it will be produced in the new year.”

      I personally am fearful of the content of this & believe it was NOT published before the voting was done for a reason ? 🙁 Could this not disolve any protection / laws we do have ?

  • Michelle Ritter

    I feel my personal battles of the last few years where I’ve been consistently told my child is NOT disabled when she is, that my childs physical struggles are NOT significant enough to warrant attention just got ten times harder. I’m not convinced the overall end result for her will be as bad as is being reported right now but just that the fight for me and the people that can make a difference just got ten times harder. On that note, I’m now off to complete my daughters DLA claim that I let lapse because I couldn’t face the battle!.

  • ALS127

    This decision ensures a more doubtful, less protected and bleak future for ALL children and young people regardless of need. I fear it will be particularly damaging to all in society who are more vulnerable or at risk of exploitation. Membership of The European Union has made possible countless reforms aiming to protect and empower those with disability or disadvantage; it has made the workplace safer, more accessible and less discriminating and enshrined it in law. With the vote to leave we will loose this protection and much of the hard won progress. I feel utterly dismayed at how such a vile, untrue and selfish campaign has resulted in a decision of such destructive magnitude and feel sure that those now seeking power will have little regard for the vulnerable.
    I was proud to be a European, but I am certainly ashamed of being British today.

  • Becky Read

    My observation is that people who come from other countries are worried – rightly or wrongly – about attitudes towards immigration expressed during the campaign and whether this may turn into hostility towards them. At the same time the fall in the value of the pound and climate of uncertainty is making work in Britain a less attractive prospect. If people who care for our children decide to leave the UK, what contingency do we have to train replacement staff? My sense is that no money is coming to help us – our only saving graces will be community, creativity and willful good humour

  • Thank you for highlighting an area that none of us feel certain about.

  • Carrie

    I don’t think the result was anything other than expected. It is becoming increasingly clear that we live in an country populated by people who are driven by self interest and arrogance. What does this really say about the state of education in this country? What worries me most is that I have lived with the comfort of thinking that European rights legislation could hold its own and call others to account, I no longer feel this to be so.
    Three of my teenage children are angry and upset that their views were not sought and their voices were not heard as they are too young to vote.
    Does anyone remember the old ‘Passport to Pimlico’ film? I loved it. It made me laugh at the silliness of self importance and assumed grandeurs. I don’t feel like laughing now though. And I just hope things work out okay for our future generations if not for us.

  • Laura Hughes

    Just off to work (with disabled people!) and want to say thank you for your post this morning. Have already lost a few ‘friends’ this weekend because of my views but that is a small price to pay.

    I think you stated things clearly and fairly and realistically.

    Someone has explained below that the Children & Families Act, Equality Act, Chronically Sick & Disabled Persons Act etc… are laws that won’t change … I am glad to hear that but what will change is the economy of this country and that can only lead to cuts in all services for all vulnerable people so there will be bigger battles for parents and carers of SEND to fight.

    Having bought up a child with SEND, I therefore find it hard to understand why any parent of an SEND child would have voted to leave.

    Sadly it shows how few facts and how much propaganda was being aired before the vote.

    Keep up the good work on here though – it makes a difference.