Review into 50-year-old laws on social care for disabled children

The law on children’s social care in England is governed by a patchwork of legislation, some dates back more than five decades. This has contributed to variation in the amount and quality of support provided by local authorities, and unnecessarily complicated routes to accessing support for the parents and care givers of disabled children.

Commissioned by the Department for Education, the review’s objectives are to:

  • Recommend a solution to the patchwork of legislation that currently governs social care for disabled children.
  • Improve how the law on social care for disabled children fits in with the law relating to social care more broadly.
  • Review the outdated language and definitions underpinning the law on social care for disabled children.

The Law Commission project was recommended in the 2022 Independent Review of Children’s Social Care, which heard from families of disabled children struggling to understand what support they are entitled to and how to access it. The project will play a role in the Government’s ongoing programme for the reform of children’s social care and the system for supporting children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities.

The Commission will look at the law and policy on social care for disabled children in England, including section 17 of the Children Act 1989 and section 2 of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970. The overarching aim of review will be to simplify and strengthen the law, ensuring that the system is fair and works for children, parents and other care givers, and local authorities. The review will focus on the provision of support and services in family-based care.

Nicholas Paines KC, Public Law Commissioner, said:

“It is essential that the law relating to disabled children’s social care is simplified and modernised.  The current legal framework governing social care for disabled children is complex and fragmented, with some provisions dating back over 50 years.

“This contributes to inconsistency, and a lack of clarity for parents and care givers of disabled children. I am therefore pleased that the Law Commission will be undertaking this review.”

Next Steps

The Law Commission has started preliminary work on this project, with the aim of publishing a consultation in Spring 2024.

Visit the project page for further information.