We need a disabled children’s innovation fund, here’s why

Support for disabled children needs significant investment but it’s not just about the amount of money, it’s about spending it on what works too.

Hannah Dobbin, Policy Manager for Children and Young People at the charity Scope, writes a guest blog on why the government must back a disabled children’s innovation fund in this autumn’s spending review. August 2021.


It isn’t ground-breaking news that services and support for disabled children are severely underfunded. Economic analysis commissioned by the Disabled Children’s Partnership (DCP) in 2017 found that there was a £1.5 billion funding gap across health and social care support for disabled children and their families. Scope, in partnership with the DCP, has just commissioned new analysis to update this figure.

We also know the significant impact that Covid has had on many disabled children and their families ([i]):

  • 70% of disabled children are still unable to access pre-pandemic levels of therapy.
  • 71% of disabled children have seen progress managing their conditions – and their overall development – regress due to the pandemic.
  • 40% of local authorities have cut respite care for families.

This is why the DCP is inviting supporters to sign Maureen’s letter to the Chancellor calling for a Covid Recovery Fund for disabled children and their families.

However, we also want to make sure that what money is invested is spent on what makes the most difference to disabled children and their families.

So, we’re calling on government to commit to an innovation fund for disabled children in the next Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR)- which is expected this autumn. The CSR is where the Treasury allocates spending money to government departments.

The government has run innovation funds before. They’re about testing new or existing services and evaluating what works in local areas with a view to rolling out those that are proven to make a difference across the country.

We want an innovation fund that focuses solely on disabled children and their families. It would be run by one or more government departments and provide financial backing for organisations to deliver ground-breaking support and approaches based on early intervention. This means identifying and providing effective early support to children and young people who are at risk of poor outcomes to prevent problems occurring or getting worse ([ii]).

The fund would also focus on supporting the family as a whole, rather than the child in isolation. It would also aim to save money in the long run as we know that intervening late with children and young people experiencing a range of emotional, social, and health difficulties costs government services £17 billion per year ([iii]).

You can download our full briefing on the fund for more details.

It’s evident that the pandemic has just exposed the inequalities that already existed in disabled children’s services. As the country recovers, we need to build a better future for disabled children and families – a fairer system of support that means every disabled child can have access to the services they need to manage their condition and development, have a great education, and the best possible start to life.

To support our calls for an innovation fund – and COVID-19 recovery for disabled children and families – please take just two minutes to sign Maureen’s open letter to the chancellor.


Hannah Dobbin is Policy Manager (Children and young people) at the disability equality charity Scope, which is a leading member of the DCP.


[i] DCP (2021) Left behind. Available via: https://disabledchildrenspartnership.org.uk/left-behind/

[ii] More information on the Early Intervention Foundation’s definition of early intervention can be accessed via: https://www.eif.org.uk/why-it-matters/what-is-early-intervention

[iii] Early Intervention Foundation (2018). Realising the potential of early intervention; Early Intervention Foundation (2016). The cost of late intervention: EIF analysis 2016.