Report into unlawful restrictions on the rights of disabled children with autism published

A report has been published by the University of Leeds, Disability Law Service, Cerebra and the BBC into discrimination against autistic children.

The report, published today (Wednesday 5 August), has concluded that at least 41 councils across England have adopted policies that prevent autistic children from accessing a care assessment.   

The report, which has been put together by Disability Law Service, the University of Leeds (co-authors include the School of Law’s Professor Luke Clements and Dr Ana Laura Aiello), Cerebra and the BBC, argue that these policies are unlawful and that local authorities have a duty to provide services appropriate to an autistic child’s needs under the Children Act 1989. It also states that a policy that excludes children who are autistic from appropriate assessment and therefore from appropriate care constitutes discrimination under the Equality Act 2010. 

Rt Hon Sir Ed Davey MP, a patron of Disability Law Service, has written an open letter calling on all local authorities in England to ensure that their policies are lawful.   

Sir Ed Davey said of the report’s findings: 

“It is shocking that at least 41 local authorities across England are breaking the law by discriminating against autistic children. While government underfunding of special education needs and disabilities is severe, that is no excuse for discrimination. Most councils are abiding by the law. All councils should. 

The law requires all disabled children to be given proper care, but many councils have adopted a policy that excludes many autistic children from an appropriate assessment. The case studies in this report are particularly heart-breaking – every child has one chance at childhood, and so many are being denied their chance.  

This new evidence and report from The Disability Law Service in partnership with Cerebra, the BBC and the School of Law at the University of Leeds demands a response from ministers and councils: this injustice must be rectified as soon as possible.”

Professor Luke Clements, Cerebra Professor of Law and Social Justice, University of Leeds, said: 

“There can be no justification for treating disabled children with autism and their families adversely compared to other disabled children. Discrimination of this kind is contrary to the Equality Aft 2010 and unlawful. Those councils who have developed these policies need to take rapid action to end the serious harm these policies are causing.”

Read the report in full here

Read the BBC article here.