MP for Fareham
Cerebral palsy is a condition where the pathways between the brains and muscles are damaged, either before or at birth, making movement and co-ordination harder.
The Rainbow Centre and other similar centres invited me and Paul Maynard MP, who has cerebral palsy, to lead a parliamentary inquiry into cerebral palsy.
We heard evidence from parents, doctors, educationalists and representatives of centres helping children with cerebral palsy.
Last week I led a debate in the House of Commons based on this inquiry.
The central message was clear: the earlier cerebral palsy is identified the better.
It is easier to rebuild these pathways when a child is between 0 and 2 years old when their brains are developing and the Rainbow Centre uses conductive education to do just that.
It sounds very straightforward but, as we heard from parents, early identification doesn’t always happen and, when it does, quite often health professionals are not very good at directing them towards the support offered by the Rainbow Centre and others.
And even when a parent finds the right support, councils can and do refuse to pay for the help on offer.
The government is reforming support for children with special educational needs to put an end to the battles between parents and councils.
The government requires each council to have a Local Offer listing all the specialist services regardless of who provides them.
This ends a bias against charities such as the Rainbow Centre. Parents welcome these reforms, but this support was tinged with a note of caution.
In the debate I said that councils must prove they have changed and show that they will not block parents who want to use services such as the Rainbow Centre.
For the reforms to work, the government needs to make sure councils deliver a comprehensive local offer, ensuring children get as much help as possible early enough to make a big difference to their lives.
The Rainbow Centre transforms children’s lives and every child with cerebral palsy should be able to use its services.