Page last updated at 07:01 GMT, Monday, 23 March 2009

New support for disabled children

Photo of a young girl driving her Wizzybug across grass
The new scheme is aimed at disabled children under five

Families with young disabled children are learning more about a new scheme being adopted in Wales to improve the support they receive.

The Early Support programme is to be introduced over the next three years by umbrella group Children in Wales (CiW).

First developed in England, the scheme is being introduced to Wales at an event at Llandrindod Wells, Powys.

Lynne Hill of CiW said it would provide "real benefits" for disabled children, their families and professionals.

The Early Support programme is aimed at improving the quality, consistency and coordination of services for disabled children under the age of five and their families.

It is designed to ensure that all services provided for these families are well co-ordinated and responsive to their needs.

After the Welsh Assembly Government agreed to implement the programme, Welsh local authorities and health authorities will adopt a package of Early Support materials and training to enable them provide the right support for families.

The family is at the centre of this project
Lynne Hill, Children in Wales

Lynne Hill, policy director at Children in Wales said: "Having secured the tender to develop the programme, we started work in January and have three years to roll it out across Wales but it's still at an early stage.

"The project was developed in England and one of the challenges we face is fitting it into a Welsh context.

"Ultimately it will be aimed at families who have disabled children aged five and under. If we can get it right at that age, and children and families are able to work with professionals it should run more smoothly after that.

"This is one of three launch events to begin to talk to parents and professionals working across the field about what we are doing. We will be pulling people in to support local authorities."

'Working together'

Ms Hill explained that as part of the scheme significant resources would become available both for families with disabled children and professionals.

She said: "We are confident that young disabled children and their families, and the practitioners that support them will see real benefits from the programme.

"We hear stories of disabled children who have 10 or 12 professionals coming into their home and each one wants to take a case history from scratch and that is quite disempowering for the children.

"The family is at the centre of this project. They will be able to feed in all the information about the disabled child once and all the professionals will be able to access that. It's about working together.

"It's about offering professionals support to help them with their work, it's not another project that's just going to land on them."

The full launch for the Early Support programme will be held in September, attended by Children's Minister Jane Hutt and Keith Towler, the children's commissioner for Wales.

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