(2) what estimate he has made of how many disabled children are (a) eligible for and (b) receiving direct payments in each local authority area;
(3) what formula is used by the Government in defining levels of need in relation to disabled children’s provision through direct payments; and if he will make a statement.
There is no information collected on waiting times or eligibility for direct payments, nor any estimate made of these. However, data are collected on the number of disabled children aged 16-17, and the number of carers of disabled children, receiving direct payments at 31 March each year. The most recent data available are for 31 March 2006, and show that 649 children and 4,170 carers were receiving these payments in England. These data are also available by local authority, and have been placed in the House of Commons Library.
In terms of local government funding, the children’s social care relative needs formula (RNF) is designed specifically to allocate funding for the provision of children’s social care services in local authorities in England. The formula takes account of the resident children population aged 0 to 17, deprivation top-up, foster and area cost adjustments. However, there is no specific element of the formula which takes into account the use of direct payments. This is because direct payments are designed to be cost-neutral, providing equivalent cash payments made in lieu of social service provisions to individuals or families.