I am determined that disabled children and their families should receive the support they need to lead fulfilling lives and be part of the community. I wholly support the excellent work this campaign is doing to highlight the reality of the challenges disabled children, young people and their families face in living a life many of us take for granted.
I can only imagine the additional challenges for disabled children and their families during the pandemic, and I welcome the work of the Disabled Children's Partnership in highlighting this issue through the Left in Lockdown campaign.
As part of the COVID-19 mental health and wellbeing recovery action plan, the Government announced £79 million of funding to improve access to mental health services for children and young people, including disabled children. This includes additional funding for Mental Health Support Teams in schools and colleges. Funding is also provided for respite care.
Further, supporting children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and their families is a priority for this government, and their educational, physical and mental wellbeing remains central to our cross-government response to the COVID-19 outbreak. That is why education settings remained open for children and young people with an education, health and care plan throughout periods of national lockdown. Moreover, I welcome that the National Disability Strategy will invest £300 million to create places, improve existing provision in schools and make accessibility adaptations for children and young people with SEND.
The return to school for all pupils was prioritised due to the significant and proven impact caused by being out of school, including on wellbeing. The support schools provided to their pupils as they returned to face-to-face education included time devoted to supporting wellbeing, which play a fundamental part in supporting children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing recovery. The expectations for schools in this regard were set out clearly in the main Department for Education guidance to schools, which also signposts further support, available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/actions-for-schools-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak.
I am encouraged by the commitment to improve opportunities and life chances for all children and young people, and I know that health and care services play an integral part in achieving this.