Cerebra’s Legal Entitlements Research Project – a potted history

I joined Cerebra in June 2010 as Head of Research and Education; prior to that I worked for Home-Start UK, supporting vulnerable families.  I knew there was a need for parents of disabled children to be informed about their legal rights.  With that in mind I searched for a speaker who could deliver Legal Rights seminars on Cerebra’s behalf to parents of disabled children. I found Prof Luke Clements.

The seminars were so popular we had to move to bigger venues and put on more dates.  From those seminars we collated several ‘frequently asked questions’ which led to the development of our Parents’ Guides and ‘frequently occurring problems’, which led to the development of several model letters (Precedent letters) that parents can use to tackle problems they are encountering.

Now, both the Parents’ Guides and the model letters are continuously updated and added to.  While the guides and model letters worked well for many parents, it became apparent that some parents/carers needed a little more input to enable them to access their legal rights. So we established the Cerebra Legal Entitlements Research Project at Cardiff Law School.

The aims of the programme are:-

  1. To provide support for disabled children, their families and advisers, who are encountering difficulties with the statutory agencies in relation to the provision of health and social care;
  2. To identify why problems occur concerning the discharge by public bodies of their statutory functions;
  3. To identify accessible and effective procedures that enable disabled children and their families to maximise the benefits of their legal entitlements; and
  4. To identify effective ways by which legal entitlements can be delivered to disabled children and their families.

The programme, under the direction of Hannah Walsh from Cardiff Law School, became operational in October 2013. Cardiff University law students are the programme’s advisers. Their role is to personalise the model letters in such a way as to address the problems encountered by the parents, with the aim of leading to its speedy resolution. This work is supervised by qualified staff as well as by firms of solicitors providing pro bono support for the scheme.  The programme is already enjoying successes, two of which; Oliver’s story and Jinny’s story; have been reported on.

From 1st January 2014 Cerebra expanded on this work by supporting a six year research project at Cardiff University with Prof Luke Clements as our Academic Chair. We are now looking for someone to take up a funded PhD studentship in Social Care Law at Cardiff Law School. The studentship will commence in September 2014 and this link – http://courses.cardiff.ac.uk/funding/R2236.html – gives more details on the research opportunity and the application process. Please share this with anyone you know who may be interested; we want to encourage as wide as possible dissemination of this opportunity.

Future Plans:

On 7th April Carys Hughes joined our Cerebra team and will be leading on Cerebra’s Legal Entitlements Research Project.  A qualified solicitor, Carys has a wealth of experience that will be very beneficial to this project. I’m sure she’ll introduce herself in the future.

In October the Cerebra annual conference theme is Problem solving’: accessing decent services and support for children with complex needs and their families. We have 50 places available at a much reduced rate of £15 for parents of children with a neurological condition, or young people themselves with a neurological condition.

Looking forward, we are hoping to expand the Legal Entitlements Project to other University law schools thereby growing the legal support that is available to disabled children and their families.

Tracy Elliott

Head of Research