Newlife Foundation for Disabled Children took its car seats campaign to Parliament this week, for a meeting with Secretary of State for Transport the Rt Hon Patrick McLoughlin MP.
Leading UK children’s disability charity Newlife Foundation is lobbying for specialist car seats to be included on statutory services’ lists of essential equipment for disabled children. Currently there is a loophole in legislation governing the use of car seats so if families cannot afford the high cost of specialist seating – which can be anything up to £3,000 – they can apply for a medical exemption certificate for their child.
Desperate to see their children offered the same safety standards as their peers, many families are forced to turn to charities for practical help. Since 2004, Newlife Foundation has funded more than 1,600 car seats at a cost in excess of £1,300,000 (£178,754 between January and November 2013 alone).
Newlife Policy Development Manager Clare Dangerfield said: “The law as it stands makes it possible for disabled children to be less secure than their peers. We want to see parents supported so they are not forced to use the medical exemption option and are not penalised by any additional financial pressures. Therefore, we are lobbying for statutory services to undertake provision of specialist car seats.”
The meeting with Secretary of State Patrick McLoughlin – arranged by Cannock Chase MP Aidan Burley – follows a visit by the Minister to Newlife Foundation’s Staffordshire headquarters earlier this year, when he asked for a briefing on the car seats issue.
Aidan Burley said: “I am proud to have such a brilliant campaigning organisation as Newlife in my constituency and to be able to help them to help disabled children and their families across the country. As a former Cannock Chase resident, Patrick McLoughlin continues to take a keen interest in the area and I am delighted that he has spared the time to meet the Newlife team again, this time to discuss the need for disabled children to have specialist car seats so that they can travel in safety.”
Newlife has been campaigning to raise awareness of the issue of specialist car seats for the past two years. The meeting with the Secretary of State follows a recent change of regulations in Australia, to ensure that disabled children and those with complex and challenging behaviour receive equitable protection while travelling. As a result of the meeting, Newlife will be pursuing the issue through the national Disability Action Alliance, of which it is a member.
According to research in Australia, 25 per cent of families of children with disabilities and additional needs were not using specialised child restraints tailored to the specific needs or disabilities of the child. Australia has now strengthened the regulations to protect all children up to the age of 16, with ‘The Australian Standard for Protection of Children With Disabilities and Medical Conditions in Vehicles’.
Clare Dangerfield added: “We are hopeful that the change in regulations in Australia will encourage moves in the same direction in the UK.”
Pictured from left: Aidan Burley MP, Clare Dangerfield & Rt Hon Patrick McLoughlin MP