New problem-solving toolkit for families

Cerebra, a national charity for children with neurological conditions, has published a new toolkit to support disabled people and carers who are encountering difficulties with statutory agencies in relation to health, social care and education support services.

Cerebra worked with Cardiff Law School on the development of the toolkit and found that families of disabled children often experience substantial delays in getting an NHS diagnosis and too few parents are given written information when they do receive their diagnosis. Support services are not always offered and, when they are, they often do not meet the needs of the family. The research also revealed that parents are reluctant to complain about any of this and, if they do, their concerns are often not dealt with adequately.

Professor Luke Clements, Cerebra Professor of Law and Social Justice, Leeds Law School and author of the Toolkit explains: "The law can be complicated and difficult to understand. Even when you know what your rights are, it can be daunting, exhausting and sometimes intimidating to challenge public officials. There is a power imbalance and much research suggests (and indeed the Government accepts) that many families are fearful that complaining may make things worse".

The toolkit is a comprehensive, practical and easy to use guide to help families resolve difficulties with statutory health, social care and education support services. It aims to help unpick commonly experienced problems and to offer effective strategies for resolving them. The toolkit:

• considers 9 general categories of dispute, from inter-agency disputes and complex cases to delays and resource issues, and offers detailed advice for resolving them
• identifies key factors that can empower people to claim their rights and to challenge failures when they occur
• offers advice on preparing for, attending and following up on meetings
• sets out a series of template letters that families can use in a variety of situations.

It also provides a 'jargon buster', an explanation of what public authorities must do, and explores a number of commonly held myths.

To accompany the toolkit, a central website www.difficultbox.com is being developed with links to law, practice and self-help guides that have been produced by many charities and support organisations. The facility to post comments and suggestions on the site is being developed.

The Problem-Solving Toolkit is free to download here.

The publication of the Toolkit has been made possible by a 2015 Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) 'Impact' award in addition to financial support from Cerebra.